The Washington Nationals turn their focus on the Miami Marlins the next four nights. What story lines should you follow this week?
The Washington Nationals return home jubilant after taking two of three from the defending world champion Chicago Cubs.
Home for the next nine games, the Nats face the Miami Marlins for a rare four-game mid-week tilt. The fish hooked the Nats for two last week at Marlins Park, but Washington will get players back from the disabled list along with Max Scherzer over the next four days. If all goes well, Gio Gonzalez will return from paternity leave too.
For the Marlins, this is their last chance to turn the National League East into a race.
A delay with the sale of the team prevented the fire sale that will come the first chance the new ownership group gets. Who buys the club or when is shrouded in a mystery. Jeffery Loria still owns the Marlins and they are functioning at their usual level.
With 10 games left between the division rivals, Miami holds a 5-4 edge in the standings. But, the Nats have outscored the Marlins 40-37. Of the nine games played, just three have been in Washington. Seven of the remaining 10 are home. Think the home team grabs an advantage.
Since the All-Star Break, the Nats played six games at the friendly confines of Nationals Park. They played four in Cincinnati, swung through the west coast and visited Miami and Chicago. In the 21 post-break games, 15 were on the road.
The team gets to sleep in their own beds and play a mostly normal schedule before their last west coast swing. It helps.
So, as we watch this latest divisional series, here are five story lines to watch.