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.
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.
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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.