Buehrle & Marlins Battle Zimmermann & Nationals

By: Willie Bee | Friday, August 3, 2012

Ozzie Guillen and Davey Johnson will have their managerial skills put to the test during a 4-game series this weekend in the nation's capital.  Because of an earlier rainout, the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals will have just three days to play the four games, and pitching staffs could be immediately stressed with a doubleheader to get things rolling on Friday.

Bettors are going to want to wait to see how the bullpens are worked on Friday before making a final decision for Saturday's third tilt in the set.  The Marlins will give the ball to veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle for the 7:10 p.m. (ET) start when the Nationals counter with Jordan Zimmermann.  Washington is a $1.60 favorite on the overnight lines with a 7½-run total.

Friday's twinbill has a marquee pitching matchup in the nightcap when Josh Johnson will take on Gio Gonzalez.  Brad Hand opens the afternoon game (4:05 p.m. ET) for the Fish against John Lannan in a double-lefty collision. Washington was -165 in the opener with an 8½-run total, while the price on the Nats dropped to -140 in the second game which listed a 7-run total.

A couple of years ago, going into a weekend with Josh Johnson, Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco ready to take their rotation turns would've been given a big thumb's up.  Shoot, one might imagine the Marlins having a damn fine chance of winning all three games.  But as respected as those names are, Washington trumps Miami with a huge starting pitching advantage this weekend behind Lannan, Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg who will take the ball in Sunday's Game 4.

Good news for Guillen and the Fish is having Josh Johnson in Friday's second game followed by Buehrle on Saturday.  Both are capable of working seven innings or more into their starts, which would take some pressure off Miami's bullpen.  The bad news is Guillen's relief corps is something of a mess right now.  Steve Cishek has become the default closer after Heath Bell proved unreliable in the role following his big free agent contract to join the Marlins this past winter.

While Buehrle is capable of working seven innings or more, like he did in five of six assignments from June 12 to July 14, he hasn't made it past the fifth inning in any of his last three starts.  All three went into the loss column for Miami, including two road outings in Chicago and Atlanta where the Cubs and Braves combined to score 10 runs in Buehrle's 9-1/3 innings.

He was money in his lone start vs. the Nats this season July 14 in Miami (7 IP, 1 ER) to cash as a small home 'dog.  Saturday will be his first career appearance at Nationals Park.

Davey Johnson's bullpen is in good shape at the moment with Tyler Clippard having taken to the closer's role like a duck to water.  Sean Burnett and Craig Stammen have been solid in middle-relief and setup, and Washington also recently saw former closer Drew Storen return to the bullpen after beginning the year on the disabled list due to elbow trouble.

Zimmermann has had an extra day of rest since his last start after experiencing some shoulder discomfort.  The Nationals are a perfect 4-0 behind their right-hander since the all-star break, a string that started with a strong performance against the Marlins in Miami.  Zimmermann tossed six shutout innings to earn the dubya, his first career win vs. the Fish.

Washington is playing without all-star shortstop Ian Desmond due to an oblique injury that forced him to the DL on July 22.  He isn't expected to return until late-August.

The Nats did get some good news this week on the injury front when OF Jayson Werth came off the DL following three months off due to wrist surgery.  It could be a few weeks, however, before Werth is in the starting lineup on a regular basis.

This weekend marks just the second series of 2012 between the clubs in Washington.  The Nationals won the only two games played here in April when rain canceled a third clash.  The Marlins have taken five of the seven since played in Miami, and the 'under' has prevailed six times overall in nine clashes.

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