The host Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals will conclude their five-game series Sunday with their second doubleheader in three days.
The Marlins (27-24) are chasing their first postseason berth since 2003 and enter Sunday in second place in the National League East, but just a half-game ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies (27-25).
"We're getting close to something that this franchise hasn't done in a long time," Marlins first baseman Garrett Cooper said. "We're just trying to stay even keel."
The first game will likely feature a matchup of former All-Stars should right-hander Sandy Alcantara face right-hander Max Scherzer as expected.
Alcantara, who is 2-2 with a 3.45 ERA in five starts (28 2/3 innings), pitched six quality innings in his last outing Tuesday. Despite taking the loss against the Red Sox, Alcantara struck out five and walked two while allowing only one run on five hits.
Alcantara has yet to face Washington this season, but is a career 0-5 with a 7.66 ERA in five starts allowing 21 earned runs in 24 2/3 innings.
"I've been facing Scherzer for two years and I think we need to do a good job together as a team to win," Alcantara said. "I don't want to lose and he doesn't want to lose."
In 23 career starts (147 2/3 innings) against the Marlins, Scherzer is 13-4 with a 3.23 ERA with a 5.96 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- his best against any division foe.
Scherzer is 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 10 starts (55 2/3 innings) and has the fourth-most strikeouts among NL starters (79), but is coming off his worst outing of the season.
Despite striking out 10, Scherzer gave up a season-high six runs (including two home runs) on nine hits and two walks in an 8-4 loss to the Braves on Sept. 13.
"I was able to make some good pitches to prevent any big inning until the end," Scherzer told reporters after that game. "At the end, I lost my location and paid for it."
For Washington, the choice in the second game could be left-hander Ben Braymer -- the club's No. 24 prospect per MLB Pipeline.com.
Braymer (0-0, 3.86 ERA), who would make his first career start, has pitched 2 1/3 innings (two appearances) in the majors as a reliever and never faced the Marlins. Over that short span, he's allowed one run on six hits, struck out four and walked two. Braymer is coming off a rough 2019 Triple-A season in which he gave up 18 home runs in 60 innings and went 0-6 with a 7.20 ERA in 13 starts.
The Nationals (19-31), who have matched their record after 50 games last year when they won the World Series, are starting to look toward the future.
"You're going to see a steady diet of our young players and players that we're committed to for the long term," general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters this past Sunday. "But with that said, we're still trying to win baseball games, and each and every time out we're expecting to win and disappointed when we lose."
Braymer might oppose left-hander Braxton Garrett, the Marlins' No. 7-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline. In his debut on Sept. 13, Garrett tossed five innings, allowing one run (a solo home run) on three hits while striking out six and issuing two walks. Garrett is the No. 7-ranked overall prospect per MLB Pipeline.
Other possibilities for the Marlins are rookie right-handers Nick Neidert (0.00 ERA in 4 1/3 innings of relief) or Robert Dugger (0-4, 6.75 in 42 2/3 career innings). Neither has ever faced the Nationals.
--Field Level Media