When the Washington Nationals visit the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night to start a three-game series, throwing strikes will be at a premium.
The Marlins will start lefty Jesus Luzardo (4-6, 7.76 ERA in 17 appearances this year). For his major league career, which dates to 2019, Luzardo averages 3.7 walks per nine innings. But in four starts since Miami acquired him from the Oakland Athletics, Luzardo is averaging an awful 8.2 walks per nine.
In his most recent start — an 11-9 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday — Luzardo walked five batters in three-plus innings.
Once Luzardo got knocked out, things did not get any better for the Marlins, who walked 12 batters in total. That tied a franchise record for most walks in a nine-inning game. Five of those walks came with the bases loaded.
The Nationals had a game like that on Sunday, losing 7-3 to the Milwaukee Brewers as Washington pitchers walked 11 batters.
“We can’t be afraid of throwing strikes,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We’re giving teams way too many freebies.”
On Tuesday, the Nationals will start right-hander Erick Fedde (5-8, 5.14 ERA). Fedde, who is averaging 3.9 walks per nine innings, is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA in four career starts vs. Miami.
Luzardo, who has yet to face Washington, will be trying to break Miami’s seven-game losing streak, which is the longest active skid in the National League.
“We’re in a tough spot,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We’re playing different people, but I feel like guys are continuing to battle.”
In reality, it’s been a lost season for both Washington and Miami.
The Nationals won the 2019 World Series but have since gone 79-104.
Miami surprisingly made the playoffs in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season with a 31-29 record. This year, however, the Marlins have gone right back to where they were in 2019, which is last place.
The good news for the Marlins is that they are relatively solid at home this year with a 30-30 record.
Washington, which is just 22-37 on the road, is led offensively by right fielder Juan Soto and first baseman Josh Bell.
Soto is hitting .304 with 20 homers and a .957 OPS. He also leads the league with 97 walks and a .446 on-base percentage. For perspective, Soto’s career batting average is .298, and he has a .969 OPS.
In seven games against the Marlins this year, Soto is hitting .360 with two home runs and six walks. He is a .313 career hitter against the Marlins, but only a .242 hitter in 27 games at Marlins Park.
Bell is hitting .242 with 20 homers and a .768 OPS. His career numbers include a .258 batting average and an .807 OPS.
As for the Marlins, they are led by veteran first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who tops the team in homers (22) and RBIs (87). Aguilar’s 87 RBIs also lead the National League.
–Field Level Media