MLB

Preview: Marlins try to regroup against Max Scherzer, Nationals

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MIAMI -- Perhaps Brandon Kintzler was the final piece.

The Washington Nationals, who beat the Miami Marlins 1-0 on Monday on a combined two-hitter by Gio Gonzalez and reliever Sean Doolittle, have a massive 14-game lead in the NL East but are thinking World Series and not just a division title.

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That was why they acquired Kintzler, 32, from the Minnesota Twins for minor league left-hander Tyler Watson, 20, consummating the deal just before the non-waiver deadline on Monday afternoon.

Kintzler, who was 2-2 with a 2.78 ERA and 28 saves for the Twins, will combine with left-hander Sean Doolittle and righty Ryan Madison in late relief for Washington. Both Doolittle and Madison came over from the Oakland Athletics on July 16.

Washington's bullpen, which started this week with the worst ERA in the National League (5.07), should be better going forward.

"This gives us options," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said of the acquisition of three potential closers in two weeks. "The better a guy performs, the more I can slide him into certain spots."

Efforts like the one Gonzalez turned in Monday night certainly help the bullpen as well. The left-hander took a no-hitter into the ninth inning and wound up yielding one hit and three walks in eight-plus innings.

"I wish (Gonzalez) could have gotten (the no-hitter). I love the way he pitches," Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper said. "He pounds the strike zone and does everything he can to help his team win. He's passionate."

Kintzler is expected to arrive at Marlins Park in time for Game 2 of the series on Tuesday, which will feature Washington right-hander Max Scherzer (12-3, 2.23 ERA) against Miami left-hander Chris O'Grady (2-1, 3.68).

Scherzer enters the start as the National League leader in strikeouts (201), batting average allowed (.170), innings pitched (145 1/3) and OPS against (.548).

In 11 career starts against the Marlins, Scherzer is 6-3 with a 3.50 ERA. In six career starts at Marlins Park, he is 4-2 with a 2.11 ERA.

For O'Grady, it will be his fifth major league start and his first against Washington. O'Grady, 27, has absolutely no hype behind him, but he has not pitched poorly since making his major league debut on July 8.

A soft-tosser, O'Grady turned in his best performance Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just five hits and two walks while striking out five.

The Marlins, who are not a contender this year, made some moves in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline that they believe will help them in the future.

In exchange for shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and right-handed relievers AJ Ramos and David Phelps, Miami received eight prospects.

"We were pleased with what we were able to accomplish," Marlins executive Michael Hill said. "With 'Hech,' we had a healthy (shortstop) JT Riddle, and we felt we could get pieces into our system. With our two relievers (Ramos and Phelps), this time of year is when you can get the most impact with taking them to the market.

"Beyond that, there wasn't anything we were trying to get accomplished in terms of touching our core."