After a hard-luck outing against the Braves, Stephen Strasburg is looking to rebound on Thursday afternoon. The Marlins, meanwhile, are striving to get back on track.
On Wednesday night, Miami was primed to even the three-game set. But in a wild shootout, the Marlins watched a five-run lead disappear. They regained the advantage in the eighth inning, only to watch Jayson Werth belt a game-winning grand slam that vaulted the Nationals to a 10-7 win.
Dating back to last year, Washington holds a commanding 11-1 record against the Marlins at home.
The Marlins have now dropped three straight, and look to salvage the finale against the Nationals' ace.
Washington opted to keep Strasburg on his five-day routine, and he will take the ball in the series finale. With an off-day on Monday, Washington could have given their ace an extra day, and that was considered.
Miami is countering with their No. 5 starter, Tom Koehler, who won his first start.
In his last outing, Strasburg suffered a tough loss to the Braves.
Washington gave Strasburg a 2-0 lead after one inning, thanks to a two-run homer by Adam LaRoche. But the defense began betraying Strasburg and the Nationals in the fourth.
With two outs and a runner on second in the fourth, Andrelton Simmons hit what looked like a routine ground ball to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, whose high throw to first pulled LaRoche off the bag, with the ball tipping off the first baseman's glove and then bouncing into the stands, allowing Justin Upton to score to make it a one-run game.
Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran followed and singled down the right-field line, allowing Simmons -- who had advanced to second on Zimmerman's throwing error -- to score the tying run.
Strasburg got out of the inning, but he didn't finish the fifth as Atlanta scored four runs to take the lead. Dan Uggla drove in two runs with a single to left. On the same play, Bryce Harper's throwing error allowed Upton and Uggla to advance a base. Ryan Doumit then singled to right field, scoring Upton.
Strasburg left the game in favor of Aaron Barrett, who allowed a sacrifice fly to Simmons to make it a four-run game. Strasburg lasted 4 1/3 innings, allowing six runs -- three earned -- on eight hits, with three walks and six strikeouts.
Koehler has been one of the pleasant surprises in the organization. The 27-year-old was impressive in Spring Training, and carried over that success into his first start, which resulted in a win over the Padres.
This will be Koehler's third career start against the Nationals, and he's 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA.
Along with possessing a fastball that has maxed out at 97 mph, Koehler has improved some other areas of his game, like holding runners.
In close games, every advantage works. In his first start, Koehler had an impressive moment when San Diego's Everth Cabrera reached on an infield single to open the game. The Marlins right-hander did a good job keeping Cabrera from advancing to second.
In the bottom of the first, Giancarlo Stanton belted a two-run homer, and the Marlins breezed.
"We talked a lot about holding runners," Koehler said. "But it's something I've always tried to do a good job of. You get a speed guy on with a hit or walk, and they turn into a double quickly. It's a lot easier for them to manufacture runs that way.
"It's something that has got to be a major emphasis of everybody's game. Early on in the Minors, I really didn't do a good job [holding runners]. It's not something in the Minors I focused a lot on. But it's something they harped on. It's kind of an organizational thing, for pitchers in general, to do a better job on, holding runners. It's about varying your looks and time to home. Anything you can do to mess with their rhythm."
Marlins: Hitting with men on base
The secret to Stanton's early-season success is simple -- runners on base. Stanton entered Wednesday night with an intriguing statistic. With runners on base, he was 10-for-17 (.588), compared to 1-for-16 with the bases empty.
Manager Mike Redmond repeatedly stresses the importance of having runners on so pitchers can't pitch around Stanton so easily. It worked out that way again on Wednesday night. In the first inning, Christian Yelich singled, and Derek Dietrich walked. Stanton promptly delivered an RBI single to center.
Nationals: Harper shows signs of heating up
It was only a matter of time before Harper got things going. Maybe the turning point was a 10-pitch showdown on Wednesday night that ended with a three-run, upper-deck home run.
Harper fouled off six pitches (five with two strikes) off Miami's Brad Hand before crushing his home run to right.
Harper's first homer of the season came on his 27th at-bat. He added a big single in the sixth inning, where Washington claimed the lead.
• Washington's Anthony Rendon has hit safely in each of the first eight games.
• The Nationals are 40-43 against the Marlins since 2005.
• Werth owns a .369 on-base percentage since he joined the Nationals in 2011.
• Yelich returned to the leadoff spot, after Adeiny Hechavarria got some opportunities hitting first, even against right-handed pitchers. Yelich had three hits and two walks on Wednesday night.
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Dietrich each belted their first home runs of the season in the loss.