When the Miami Marlins open a three-game series against the visiting Washington Nationals on Monday night, both teams will be trying to not finish last in the NL East.
The fourth-place Marlins (63-86) are two games ahead of the last-place Nationals (61-88).
But beyond that avoiding-the-cellar narrative, the final couple of weeks of what has been a disappointing season for both franchises is also about developing young players.
That means development in the fundamentals of baseball, of course. But it also means developing emotional maturity, and the prime example of that is Marlins rookie second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr.
The 23-year-old Bahamas native has shown thrilling speed as evidenced by 18 doubles, four triples and 21 steals. He also has shown uncommon power for someone with his rangy physique as he has blasted 15 homers.
But aside from those flashes of brilliance, Chisholm has also demonstrated some troubling body language when it comes to umpires and their strike zones. Chisholm has not been shy about showing his displeasure, and that has caught the attention of Marlins manager Don Mattingly.
“With Jazz, he has that fire and emotion, and the body language doesn’t help him with the umpire the next time out,” Mattingly said. “It’s something I think he will get a handle on. It’s human nature. If you react to these (umpires), it’s not going to be good.
“I feel like he is hurting himself. There has to be different ways of expressing it because I don’t think it helps his strike zone.”
The Marlins on Monday are set to start lefty Jesus Luzardo (5-8, 6.80 ERA).
In nine starts since being acquired by the Marlins from the Oakland A’s just before the July 30 trade deadline, Luzardo is 3-4 with a 6.75 ERA.
Luzardo is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in two career starts (both in 2021) against Washington.
He has struggled with his command this season, which is his first full year in the majors. Luzardo, 23, is allowing 10.1 hits, 4.6 walks and 2.1 homers per nine innings.
The Nationals, meanwhile, will start right-hander Erick Fedde (7-9, 5.16 ERA).
A 28-year-old native of Las Vegas, Fedde hasn’t lived up to the hype of being a first-round pick in 2014 by the Nationals. His career numbers include a 15-20 record and a 5.13 ERA in parts of five seasons.
However, he has pitched exceptionally well against the Marlins with a 4-0 record and a 1.10 ERA in six starts. This year, Fedde is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA in three starts against the Marlins.
For his career in Miami, he is 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA in three starts.
If the game gets to the bullpen, watch for Tanner Rainey, who struck out the side on Sunday in Washington’s 3-0 win over the Colorado Rockies. That was Rainey’s first major-league appearance since Aug. 12.
Offensively, the Nationals are led by Juan Soto, who is hitting .315 with 26 homers and 86 RBIs.
Since the All-Star break, Soto is hitting .360 with a 1.181 OPS.
“It’s remarkable to possess the power, the average, the defense, the energy and the personality (of Soto),” Rockies manager Bud Black said after the Nationals star blasted a 454-foot homer on Sunday. “What a player. He makes baseball better.”
–Field Level Media