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Despite having stumbled into Martin Prado at the wrong time, the Washington Nationals are staying positive with time running short in their bid to win the NL East.
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Jordan Zimmermann will try to cool off Prado on Saturday night when the host Nationals look to avoid dropping the first two of a three-game series with the Miami Marlins.
Washington (64-63) had won four of five before taking on lowly Miami, but trailed first-place New York by 6 1/2 games with the Mets winning seven in a row.
The Nationals missed a chance to cut into that lead Friday, falling 4-3 in the opener before New York lost to Boston in 10 innings. Prado hit a go-ahead two-run home run off Max Scherzer in the third inning and Marcell Ozuna added a solo shot in the fourth.
"(August losses) don't feel good," shortstop Ian Desmond told MLB's official website. "But we've got a pretty good attitude in here. We believe. That's the first step."
Prado is batting .370 with two home runs in a seven-game hitting streak and .400 in a 10-game streak at Nationals Park. He's 4 for 9 against Zimmermann (10-8, 3.54 ERA) this season and has batted .426 in his career in the matchup.
"We're going to play a lot of teams who are in the race," Prado said. "We're going to go out there and make it difficult for them."
Since going 7-5 with a 3.04 ERA with six home runs allowed over his first 17 starts, Zimmermann has posted a 4.56 mark while surrendering 11 homers in his past nine.
The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs and 17 hits - five homers - over 11 2-3 innings in his last two starts, yet won both thanks to his offense, which outscored Colorado and Milwaukee 24-11.
The home run might not be much of a problem against a Miami team that has hit by far the fewest since July 4 with 24.
Zimmermann has gone 3-0 with a 2.39 ERA in his last six home starts against the Marlins. He has a 2.84 ERA in three meetings this season after allowing three runs over six innings of a 4-1 road loss July 28.
Dee Gordon is 4 for 9 off him this year, but J.T. Realmuto is 1 for 8. Christian Yelich is 7 for 21 lifetime in the matchup, though he's likely to miss the rest of the series with a bruised right knee.
Tom Koehler (8-12, 3.98) has posted a 6.68 mark while dropping a club-record six starts in a row. He allowed two runs over six innings Monday but didn't get any run support in a 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh.
Koehler gave up six hits over 7 1-3 innings in an 8-0 home win over Washington on April 25, but he's gone 0-2 with a 7.50 ERA while yielding four homers in the past two matchups.
Bryce Harper has certainly given the right-hander trouble, going 5 for 8 with four home runs. The slugger is batting .404 in a 15-game hitting streak at Nationals Park.
Michael Taylor (bruised right knee) and Yunel Escobar (hand) are day-to-day after sitting Friday.
Miami (52-77) seeks its fourth win in five road games.