video thumbnail

Zambrano hurls six frames of one-run ball

There's a valid argument to be made that no National League teams improved this offseason as much as the Nationals and Marlins. Washington and Miami both made big moves, hauling in a great deal of talent that could help shift the balance of power in the National League East.

The two clubs will meet for the first time this season on Friday night at Nationals Park, where Carlos Zambrano will face Washington left-hander Ross Detwiler.

"Everywhere we play in this division is going to be tough," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "No matter where we're going, we know we're going to face a tough team."

The Marlins did most of their roster improvement via free agency, signing Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle. But Zambrano, still seeking his first win in a Miami uniform despite two solid starts, was picked up in a trade with the Cubs for Chris Volstad. The Nationals also strengthened their rotation via free agency and trades, acquiring lefty Gio Gonzalez as part of a six-player deal with the A's and signing right-hander Edwin Jackson.

The moves have panned out in an obvious way for the Nationals thus far, as they've jumped out to a 10-4 start behind the strength of their excellent pitching staff. The Marlins, meanwhile, have finally climbed back above .500 thanks to a four-game winning streak.

In this three-game series, Miami has a chance to not only keep that streak alive, but also avoid falling into an early hole against a division rival.

"Every series, every game is important for us," Guillen said. "Right now, we're playing good baseball. We're trying to keep it up."

Some of their success on the offensive side has been due to center fielder Emilio Bonifacio, formerly with the Nationals. Coming off a career year at the plate and on the basepaths, Bonifacio is batting .340 with nine stolen bases through 13 games. He credited his position in the lineup -- right between Reyes and Hanley Ramirez -- for his hot start.

"It's helped a lot," Bonifacio said. "I've been seeing a lot of fastballs in every count, especially when Reyes gets on. When he's on, I'm going to get a lot of fastballs because they don't want to walk me."

It will be up to Detwiler to stop the improved Bonifacio and the rest of the Marlins lineup after going five innings for the no decision Sunday against the Reds. The left-hander gave up only one earned run on six hits, while walking and striking out two.

Marlins: Infante should return this weekend
The Marlins are hoping to have second baseman Omar Infante, who missed Wednesday and Thursday, back in the starting lineup sometime this weekend, but only if he's 100 percent. Guillen isn't about to rush Infante back from a strained left groin.

"I worry about those injuries," Guillen said. "That little muscle there can be very aggravating. Obviously, you're not going to feel 100 percent in a few days. You've got to stay on top of that. ... He's got to give me the right answer for me to play him. I'm not in a hurry to play him. Obviously, you want him in the game. If that is not the right answer, we'll keep playing [Donnie] Murphy."

• Guillen is also keeping a close eye on left fielder Logan Morrison, who is working his way back after undergoing offseason surgery on his right knee.

Morrison, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI on Thursday, likely won't be in the starting lineup Friday, partially for matchup concerns with the lefty Detwiler on the mound, but it's worth noting that Morrison sat out each of the Marlins' three games that followed travel. Austin Kearns figures to get the start in left field in Morrison's place on Friday.

"We're going to keep monitoring those guys," Guillen said. "I'm not going to overuse them. I like our bench. Let our bench go out there and do their job. I have a lot of confidence in them, and I think they can do the job, too."

Nationals: Lannan not drawing much trade interest
Washington is still looking to complete a deal involving left-hander John Lannan but hasn't had much success in doing so, a baseball source told

Lannan, making $5 million this year, is off to a slow start with Triple-A Syracuse, allowing nine earned runs in six innings.

"He is mentally tough, I think," Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty said. "I know it is really tough. My experience tells me that. I've been through it, and it's hard to do. Again, if you are not mentally tough in this game, it will eat you alive. I think he will be able to handle it. He understands the situation. Hopefully, he will go out and have a great game. He is a quality pitcher."

Worth noting
• Former Marlins and Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez will officially announce his retirement on Monday. "Pudge," who began his Major League career with the Rangers in 1991, will return to Texas for a celebratory news conference.

• The Marlins went 7-2 at Nationals Park in 2011 and have posted a 26-9 record there since the stadium opened in 2008.

• The Nationals went 6-2 during their season-opening homestead, and were 4-0 in one-run games. Comments