(SportsNetwork.com) - The Miami Marlins hope to continue their hot start to the 2014 season on Tuesday, as they visit the nation's capital for the first of a three-game set against the Washington Nationals.
After finishing the 2013 season with an National League East worst, 62-100 record, Miami is currently leading its division with five wins in its first seven outings.
This will mark the first road test of the campaign for the Marlins, who are batting .294 through to this point. They have been led by right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who has driven in at least one run in each game while batting .345 with a pair of homers. Stanton's impressive streak ties him with Cliff Floyd for the second-most consecutive games with an RBI to start the season.
Casey McGehee has 10 RBI to go along with a .375 average and Adeiny Hechavarria is batting .393.
Miami had its three-game winning streak stopped on Sunday with a 4-2 loss to San Diego.
Henderson Alvarez will be looking to bounce back from a shaky performance in his season debut in Colorado last week. Alvarez, who ended the 2013 season with a no-hitter versus Detroit, lasted only three-plus innings against the Rockies on Wednesday. The 23-year old gave up six runs, although only three were earned, on seven hits in the contest.
"What got me in trouble was leaving the ball up there," Alvarez said after his first losing decision of the 2014 campaign. "That's when the batters took advantage, and they got their hits off me. There were a couple of times when I had the count, 1-2, that I tried to throw the ball in the dirt, I left it up, and the hitters took advantage."
Washington will counter with Gio Gonzalez, who improved to 1-0 on Wednesday with a win over the Mets. The southpaw allowed just one run on three hits in six innings of work and also contributed a solo home run. Gonzalez was replaced after he reached 91 pitches.
"It's starts with his fastball," Nationals manager Matt Williams said about Gonzalez. "So once he establishes his fastball command, everything else works off that. He did that tonight. He was able to find his command and use his other stuff, too."
Gonzalez went 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts against Miami last season.
The Nationals avoided a three-game sweep on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Atlanta. Ian Desmond led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a tie- breaking home run to help the Washington claim the decision. The Nationals' pitching staff did a terrific job as Atlanta went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.
Prior to the game on Sunday, the Nationals placed outfielder Scott Hairston on the 15-day disabled list and recalled infielder/outfielder Tyler Moore from Triple-A Syracuse. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was also out of the starting lineup for Sunday's contest due to inflammation in his right shoulder. Zimmerman did make an appearance as a pinch hitter, but struck out.
With Hairston and possibly Zimmerman out, Williams will need more production out of Bryce Harper, who is just 3-for-21 on the season. Harper has been successful in the past versus Alvarez, going 5-for-10 with two home runs. Second baseman Anthony Reardon is hitting .391 and has reached base safely in every game this season.
Miami was held to just one run and swept in three games by the Nationals last season when it opened its season in Washington.