With little to play for, at least the Miami Marlins can look forward to the return of Jose Fernandez.
Making his first start in a little more than a month, the oft-injured ace tries to remain undefeated at home and help hand the visiting Washington Nationals a fifth consecutive defeat Saturday night.
Fernandez (4-0, 2.30 ERA) made seven starts since returning from elbow surgery July 2, then landed on the disabled list with a biceps strain Aug. 11. The 23-year-old last pitched in the majors Aug. 7, when he allowed two runs and struck out six in five innings of a 6-3 loss at Atlanta.
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Fully recovered and fresh from a successful bullpen session Wednesday, the right-hander appears ready to help Miami (60-81) try for a fourth straight victory and ninth in the last 11.
"It looks like all systems are go there for him to get ready to toe the rubber and pitch against the Nationals," manager Dan Jennings told MLB's official website.
Fernandez, 15-0 with a 1.14 ERA in 24 starts at Marlins Park, can join Johnny Allen (1932-33) and LaMarr Hoyt (1980-82) as the only pitchers to win their first 16 career decisions at home.
"Every step along the way is a test," Jennings added. "Once he passes one test, he moves to the next. He's passed (the bullpen), the next one will be Saturday against the Nats."
Fernandez has aced his four previous tests against Washington (71-69), going 2-0 with an 0.69 ERA in all at home. He overcame four walks to yield a run in six innings of a 4-1 victory over the Nationals on July 28.
Washington held a one-game lead over the New York Mets in the NL East after that contest but now trails them by a season-high 8 1/2 games.
"It's not over yet,'' left-hander Gio Gonzalez said. ''Things change - a lucky rabbit's foot or something comes through. We're going to stay positive most of the time. We still have a lot of fight in us.''
Bryce Harper is 1 for 6 with three strikeouts and walked three times in nine plate appearances against Fernandez.
The Washington star leads the NL with a .334 average but fanned three times and stranded five runners during Friday's 2-1 loss. Harper's three hits during Wednesday's 5-3 defeat to the Mets are the only ones he's recorded in his last 15 at-bats.
''Bryce has had a fantastic year for us,'' manager Matt Williams said. ''We'll try to give him those opportunities again.''
Back in the Nationals rotation after Joe Ross was sent to the bullpen, Tanner Roark (4-4, 4.41) takes the mound after he allowed a run in 4 1-3 innings of last Friday's 5-2, 10-inning win over Atlanta in his first start since June 28. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 5.21 ERA in seven starts this season.
Making his first start opposite the Marlins in 2015, Roark is 2-1 with 2.39 ERA in four against them.
Miami's Dee Gordon ranks among the major league leaders with a .328 average, and is batting .370 in 13 game against Washington this year.