The first-place Washington Nationals will try to avoid consecutive losses for just the second time this season as they begin a three- game series with the streaking Miami Marlins.
The Nats were in position for a four-game sweep of the Astros on Thursday, but instead had a three-game win streak stopped with an 11-4 setback. It was only Washington's fourth loss in 14 games this season and it will try to avoid losing two in a row for the first time since April 8-9 on the road.
Edwin Jackson suffered the loss on Thursday, giving up five runs on seven hits with five strikeouts over five innings. Houston also put together a big inning off reliever Tom Gorzelanny, who allowed six runs in two innings.
"I couldn't make pitches to get out of it," Jackson said. "I just left a few balls up, in position to put people away and I didn't."
Ryan Zimmerman hit his first home run of the year, a three-run shot for the Nats, who still lead the Braves by 1 1/2 games for first place in the National League East.
The Nationals' Ross Detwiler will face the Marlins for the first time as a starter tonight, though he has thrown four scoreless innings of relief against them spread out over two appearances.
He owns a pair of starts for Washington this season and beat the Mets in his season debut on April 10 with five scoreless innings of two-hit ball. The left-handed Detwiler then got a no-decision versus the Reds on Sunday thanks to rally from his offense. The 26-year-old put his team in an early hole by allowing five runs over five innings, but only one of those runs were earned.
Those four unearned runs came when Detwiler allowed a first-inning grand slam following an error.
Getting the start for the Marlins is Carlos Zambrano, who has flirted with danger in his first two outings with the franchise and tries again tonight for his first win of the season.
Zambrano made his season debut on April 8 and allowed four runs on four hits and two walks over six innings, getting a no-decision in his club's 6-2 setback. He was then in line to beat the Astros on Saturday, allowing a run despite four hits and six walks over six innings. However, the right-hander was left out of the decision again when the bullpen failed to hold a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning.
The 30-year-old Zambrano is 8-3 with a 3.35 earned run average in 15 career games versus the Nationals franchise, including 12 starts.
Zambrano will try to pitch the Marlins to a fifth straight victory after they completed a three-game sweep of the Cubs with yesterday's 5-3 victory. Greg Dobbs doubled home the tying and go-ahead runs in the third inning.
Hanley Ramirez collected two hits and scored two runs for the Marlins, while Ricky Nolasco pitched in and out of trouble while allowing three runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. Heath Bell, the fifth reliever used by the Marlins, struck out two in the ninth to earn his second save of the season.
"We know as long as we just pound the strike zone we have got good enough arms and good enough pitches that we can get people out. Any championship quality team has a good bullpen and we think we do," said Bell.
Second baseman Omar Infante could miss his third straight game due to a strained left groin, while outfielder Logan Morrison is expected to get the game off to rest his right knee that he had surgery on in the offseason.
The Marlins took 11 of 18 from the Nats last season, taking seven of nine in Washington. Miami has won 21 of the last 29 encounters overall.