Nearing playoffs, Nats eye sweep of Marlins

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Take the way-back machine, find a turntable and play the Bachman-Turner Overdrive song “Takin’ Care of Business” … because, well, that’s what the Washington Nationals are doing this weekend.

The Nationals (85-68), who lead the chase for one of two NL wild-card berths, beat the Miami Marlins 10-4 on Saturday and will go for a three-game sweep on Sunday.

Washington, which has beaten Miami 11 straight times this year, will start right-hander Austin Voth (1-1, 3.58 ERA) on Sunday. Miami will start right-hander Pablo Lopez (5-8, 4.94).

Voth, 27, has pitched in just 11 major league games, including eight starts, although he has never faced the Marlins. Since making his major league debut last year, he is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA at home, but just 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA on the road.

Here’s the good news for Washington: In his past four appearances — including two on the road — he has allowed just four runs in 18 innings.

Meanwhile, Lopez, 23, is 0-2 with a 9.87 ERA in four career appearances against the Nationals. But he has a positive home split (3-3, 3.22) as compared to his road numbers (2-5, 7.27) this season.

The Nationals, who have set a franchise record for homers this year, are led offensively by third baseman Anthony Rendon, who is hitting .326 with 43 doubles, three triples, 34 homers and 119 RBIs.

Left fielder Juan Soto is another Nationals star, batting .288 with 30 doubles, five triples, 34 homers and 107 RBIs.

Besides that thump in the middle of their lineup, the Nationals have electrifying speed with shortstop Trea Turner (34 steals) and center fielder Victor Robles (26 steals).

“We have a chance to do something special,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of his team’s chances of making a postseason run. “We’ve got to keep grinding, but we can set our own destiny right now.”

The Marlins, meanwhile, have the worst record in the National League (53-101) and are playing for the future with a roster full of young players.

Yet, they keep fighting as they did in Saturday’s loss, when the Marlins trailed 4-0 in the eighth only to rally and force extra innings.

One of Miami’s best players this year has been infielder Starlin Castro, who began the season at second base but shifted on Aug. 5 to third with the arrival of highly touted arrival of rookie Isan Diaz.

Castro slumped in the first half of this season, batting just .245 with six homers and 34 RBIs. But he has hit over .300 in each of the past three months. In the second half overall, he has hit .308 with 15 homers and 47 RBIs.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who this week signed a two-year contract extension, has been impressed with Castro’s professionalism.

“He’s been a manager’s dream,” Mattingly said. “He has gotten better as the season has gone on, and he always wants to play. He hit some rough patches early on, but, since then, he’s been on a roll.”

–Field Level Media

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