The Marlins aren't even .500 and are much closer to last place than first.
Four straight home games against the first-place Nationals gives the Marlins a golden opportunity to gain ground and they'll look to take advantage starting Friday night.
Hiring manager Ozzie Guillen combined with a spending spree that delivered shortstop Jose Reyes , starter Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell , while opening a new ballpark made the Marlins (41-44) a fashionable pick to win the NL East.
They're not even close.
Miami is fourth in the division, nine games back of Washington (49-34), which is aiming to reach the postseason for the first time since it was the Montreal Expos in 1981.
"Yes, I'm disappointed," Guillen told the team's official website. "I should be. I think we're a better club than what we were playing. I'm not managing this club for .500. I think we're better than a .500 club."
The Marlins have been streaky, going 21-8 in May to set a team record for wins in a month. However, they followed that up by dropping 22 of the next 34 heading into the All-Star break.
"We've been either very hot or very cold," Guillen said. "I think being inconsistent has been a big part of the problem. I wish every time we went out there, we would be more consistent."
That may be tough with Giancarlo Stanton - the Marlins' lone All-Star - out for at least a month after arthroscopic right knee surgery.
The right fielder leads the team with 19 homers and 50 RBIs and Miami fell 5-4 at St. Louis in its first game without him Sunday.
Increased production from Reyes would help. The NL batting champion last year with a career-high .337 average for the New York Mets , Reyes is hitting .264 with 20 stolen bases.
The Marlins are hitting .242, ahead of only San Diego's league-worst .234 average.
That may not matter with Josh Johnson (5-5, 4.06 ERA) scheduled to face the Nationals. The right-hander is 8-0 with a 3.24 ERA in 16 games against them, including a 5-3 home victory May 30. He allowed three runs in six innings to help Miami complete a three-game sweep.
Johnson is 5-0 with a 2.42 ERA in nine home starts against Washington, and 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last three overall outings at Marlins Park.
The Nationals entered the break with two losses in three games against Colorado for their first series loss against an NL opponent since that three-game sweep at Miami in May.
"We have a great team. We have a lot of guys on this team that everybody likes and the game of baseball likes and the fans like," right fielder Bryce Harper told the team's official website. "It's an exciting time for us and an exciting time for the fans. It's a lot of fun to come to this clubhouse every day."
Unlike the Marlins, Harper is living up to the hype. The 19-year-old rookie is hitting .282 with eight homers, 25 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He walked and struck out in Tuesday's All-Star game after replacing Stanton on the roster.
Runs could be hard to come by in this game with Jordan Zimmermann (5-6, 2.61) opposing Johnson.
Zimmermann is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last three starts and hasn't allowed more than three runs in his last seven outings.
The right-hander, though, hasn't been nearly that sharp in six starts against the Marlins, going 0-3 with a 4.81 ERA.
|July 01, 2012||Chien-Ming Wang||15-Day DL||Strained right hip|
|June 30, 2012||Stephen Strasburg||Day-to-Day||Left game - heat exhaustion|
|June 24, 2012||Xavier Nady||15-Day DL||Right wrist tendinitis|
|June 17, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Oblique soreness|
|June 11, 2012||Roger Bernadina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right hamstring|
|June 10, 2012||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Sore back|
|July 08, 2012||Hanley Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Right finger laceration|
|July 06, 2012||Giancarlo Stanton||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|June 30, 2012||Edward Mujica||15-Day DL||Fractured right pinkie toe|
|June 16, 2012||Sandy Rosario||15-Day DL||Strained right quad|
|May 23, 2012||Austin Kearns||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|May 23, 2012||Austin Kearns||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
MIAMI (AP) -- Ryan Zimmerman benefited from time off during the All-Star break and it showed in his first game back.
Zimmerman went 3 for 4 and hit a two-run home run to help lead the Washington Nationals to a 5-1 win over the Miami Marlins on Friday night.
"Getting the rest kind of helped everyone," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman, who has been dealing with a bothersome right shoulder, was 3 for 16 heading into the break.
Jesus Flores drove in two runs for the Nationals, who have won six of eight.
Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann (6-6) pitched six scoreless innings allowing four hits and striking out six as he lowered his ERA to 2.48. He is one of two pitchers in the majors who has pitched at least six innings in each of his starts this season.
"Last year I thought he pitched like a No. 1 (starter) and he's continued this year," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He's been not getting hardly any run support, but he's growing up even more this year."
Josh Johnson (5-6) lost to Washington for the first time in his career as he allowed five runs and 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings. Johnson was 8-0 in 15 starts against the Nationals.
"Pretty bad, not the way you want to start the second half," Johnson said.
The Marlins were out-hit 13-7 and have dropped three straight.
"We couldn't put it together," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Zimmermann threw the ball pretty good. Today, we took it like another All-Star break day. Hopefully tomorrow we can come back and swing the bats better."
Ian Desmond 's RBI single scored the Nationals' first run before Zimmerman connected off Johnson to left-center field in the third to make it 3-0.
"He's always good," Zimmerman said of Johnson. "He's not a fun guy to face, but he made a mistake and I put a good swing on it."
Zimmermann allowed three hits to the first five batters before settling down. He was at his best in the fourth inning when he struck out Logan Morrison , Hanley Ramirez and Justin Ruggiano , all swinging.
"I had a pretty good fastball tonight and I was able to locate it pretty well," Zimmermann said. "I was just spotting up with that and I got some swings and misses."
Adam LaRoche singled to lead off the sixth, his third hit of the game, and Desmond followed with a hit. Flores drove them both home with a single to left that dropped right in front of Morrison. LaRoche crossed home plate just before Desmond, who was only three steps behind and extended the lead to 5-0.
"Desi is a lot faster than Adam," Zimmerman said. "I guess Adam was going to tag up and score if the guy caught it with his speed. It was one of those funny plays. I'm just glad they both scored."
Flores' hit ended Johnson's outing.
The Marlins threatened in the seventh when Zimmermann left in favor of Henry Rodriguez . After John Buck 's RBI single scored Ruggiano to make it 5-1, Austin Kearns lined into an inning-ending double play to pitcher Michael Gonzalez , who had relieved Rodriguez.
Ruggiano stole a career-high three bases.
NOTES: Zimmerman's home run was his 15th against the Marlins, the most he's hit against any club. ... Ramirez was dropped to fifth in the lineup for the first time in his career after closing the first half on a 2-for-22 slump. "Hanley is struggling at the plate," Guillen said. "As Hanley starts hitting better he will be moved back to where he is supposed to be (in the third spot)." ... Miami placed OF Giancarlo Stanton (right knee surgery) on the 15-day DL, retroactive to July 8, and activated OF Emilio Bonifacio (left thumb surgery) off the 15-day DL after Bonifacio missed 46 games. Stanton is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. "I don't know (when I'll be back), I just started walking," Stanton said. "I honestly have no idea. They say four to six weeks, but I've got no clue." ... Marlins first-round pick LHP Andrew Heaney signed a $2.6 million bonus just before Friday's deadline and was in attendance. ... Miami-native LHP Gio Gonzalez (12-3, 2.92 ERA) will start Saturday for the Nationals against LHP Mark Buehrle (8-8, 3.25 ERA), who has won his last three starts.