Nationals-Marlins Preview

The Washington Nationals' best start in franchise history has truly been a collaborative effort, though they're still getting plenty of production from their stars.

As Bryce Harper looks to continue his early-season tear, Max Scherzer attempts to follow up an outstanding last start in Thursday's series finale with the Miami Marlins.

While Harper's encore to his 2015 NL MVP campaign is off to a torrid start, Washington also has built its MLB-leading 11-3 record on a pitching staff that leads the majors with a 2.06 ERA. That depth was illustrated in Wednesday's 3-1 win, when Yusmeiro Petit threw four innings of one-run ball after Joe Ross exited after two with a blister on his right hand.

Harper again did his part, delivering a double for his seventh straight game with at least one RBI. He's knocked in 16 runs and homered five times while going 10 for 25 over that stretch.

Washington starters have combined for a 1.23 ERA in nine games since Scherzer (2-0, 3.15 ERA) was reached for four runs in six innings in an April 11 win over Atlanta. The staff ace was back in top form Saturday in Philadelphia, allowing a run on five hits and fanning seven over seven innings in an 8-1 victory.

"I didn't attack well, but I pitched well," he told MLB's official website. "I found ways to get outs. I threw some good off-speed pitches when I needed to, especially early in the game. I thought they were going to come out aggressively against me, and I was right. I was able to negate that."

Scherzer was dominant in two starts at Marlins Park last season, yielding eight hits over 15 scoreless innings while winning both.

He'll face a Marlins offense that's been shut down in two straight following a 6-1 win in Monday's series opener. After being held to three hits in Stephen Strasburg's eight innings in Tuesday's 7-0 defeat, Miami (4-9) managed five, including Derek Dietrich's solo homer in its sixth loss in seven games.

''Anytime you don't hit, you come out real flat,'' said manager Don Mattingly, whose team fell to 1-7 at home. ''We're not getting guys out there.''

Christian Yelich has been one exception, recording a .372 average and .517 on-base percentage thus far. Martin Prado is batting .326 and 9 for 19 with a home run against Scherzer.

Harper could be primed for another big day, as he's homered five times in 26 at-bats against the struggling Tom Koehler (0-2, 6.30). The right-hander has walked six in 10 innings and lasted just 3 2/3 in Saturday's 6-4 loss to Atlanta, surrendering nine hits and five earned runs.

''The most frustrating part isn't even the runs. You're going to have games where you give up runs," Koehler said. "But I take a lot of pride in pitching and lasting in games and giving the team a chance to win. You never want to have a situation where you have the bullpen pick you up for that many innings."

Koehler did work 6 1/3 innings of a 4-2 defeat at Nationals Park on April 10, allowing two runs and striking out six, but lost a fourth straight start to Washington.

Daniel Murphy went 2 for 2 in that game and singled twice Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. The offseason addition is batting .452 over the run and .429 overall.


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