The Nationals and Marlins share a common enemy in the Braves. Both Washington and Miami are staring up at Atlanta in the National League East after the Braves finished off a week-long sweep of both division foes.
On Monday, the Nationals (7-5) and Marlins (2-10) will commence a three-game series that could inch one team closer to Atlanta. The Braves claimed all three contests at Nationals Park over the weekend, while the Marlins have won just two of their first 12 games, including three losses to Atlanta in South Florida over the first half of the week.
"Everybody in this clubhouse, we've won our entire lives," said Marlins pitcher Wade LeBlanc, who will start Monday's series opener. "It's kind of foreign to be struggling this much. It's not a good feeling at all. It's not for lack of effort. Everybody is trying. Everybody is working really hard to try to turn this thing around and get on the other side of it. It's just one of those things."
The Nationals swept a three-game set in Washington to open the season. The Marlins would like to return the favor.
"Ideally, you'd like to get some wins under your belt right away, and get some confidence going," LeBlanc said. "Similar to what they've done and what the Braves have done. Not every team can be that way."
Prior to Monday's tilt, the teams will observe Jackie Robinson Day when South Florida resident Norman Berman tosses the ceremonial first pitch. Berman was a ball boy for the Brooklyn Dodgers when Robinson, who broke the game's color barrier in 1947, played at Ebbets Field. All players across the league will don Robinson's No. 42.
In 1997, under the direction of Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute.
The Marlins will also make a contribution to the Jackie Robinson Foundation as part of a pregame tribute.
Davey Johnson's bunch will send Jordan Zimmermann to the mound in an effort to thwart the Nationals' three-game skid. The right-hander has merited a victory in both of his starts, while fashioning a 2.08 ERA in the process. He is 2-3 with a 4.09 ERA in nine career outings against Miami.
Zimmermann will likely face a Marlins lineup missing slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The right fielder was shelved for Miami's series against Philadelphia with a bruised shoulder.
"The plan was probably to give him a couple of days, and then probably re-evaluate [Monday] and see how he's doing," said Marlins manager Mike Redmond.
Nationals: Ramos sidelined with strain
Catcher Wilson Ramos landed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday after straining his left hamstring a day earlier while running out a grounder. Kurt Suzuki will take over the bulk of the catching duties, while Jhonatan Solano was promoted from Triple-A Syracuse to serve as Suzuki's backup.
"It's [stinks]. He was working so hard in Spring Training," Suzuki said about Ramos, who last May had surgery on his right knee. "He gets back. He is in great shape. Something freaky like this to happen, it's unfortunate."
• Danny Espinosa left Sunday's contest against Atlanta with a sore right wrist after being struck by a pitch.
Johnson said X-rays on Espinosa's right wrist were negative but that he probably will miss a game or two. Espinosa was surprised by that and thinks he could play tomorrow if he wakes up feeling good.
"Very relieved. I wasn't too happy when I got hit," Espinosa said. "You get hit in the hand, hit in the wrist, something like that, you can easily break something, so when I first got hit, wasn't thrilled about it. I'm relieved to find out that it's just hopefully bruising and not inflammation."
Marlins: LeBlanc seeking first win
LeBlanc has pitched well in his first two starts, but has an 0-2 record to show for it.
"I'm feeling good," LeBlanc said. "The command is getting there. The stuff is starting to sharpen up a little bit."
LeBlanc yielded three runs (two earned) on five hits over five innings against the Nationals on April 4. He said he is becoming more comfortable the more he pitches.
"The more starts you get," he said, "the more you get into a routine, the better you are prepared to secure the same stuff from game to game, instead of being so up and so down."
• Donovan Solano was given a day off on Sunday to get re-energized. Solano had started the team's first 11 games at second base.
• Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, a 2009 Gold Glove Award winner, has committed an error in three consecutive games.
• Marlins outfielder Austin Kearns was kept at University of Miami Hospital overnight Sunday for evaluation of an irregular heartbeat.