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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Monday, April 1st (All times Eastern)

Miami Marlins (0-0) at Washington Nationals (0-0), 1:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Miami - Ricky Nolasco (0-0, 0.00) Washington - Stephen Strasburg (0-0, 0.00)

(Sports Network) - Expectations are through the roof in the nation's capital.

The Washington Nationals start what has been dubbed a "World Series or bust" season on Monday against the new look Miami Marlins at Nationals Park.

After finishing in the bottom of the NL East six times in seven seasons from 2004-2010, the Nationals began a slow climb up the standings with a third- place finish in 2011. And though that 80-81 record wasn't much to write home about, it did show that the Nats were headed in the right direction.

Not too much was expected out of Washington in 2012, a campaign that figured to serve as seasoning for the returning Stephen Strasburg from Tommy John surgery and rookie Bryce Harper, a pair of No. 1 overall picks from 2009 and '10 respectively charged with leading the franchise into a successful future.

It ended up being much more as Strasburg was dominant until being shut down due to an innings limit and Harper won the NL Rookie of the Year award. Gio Gonzalez led all of baseball with 21 wins in his first season with the Nationals and Tyler Clippard saved the bullpen, while Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond all provided pop at the plate to help Harper.

The result was an 18-win improvement and the franchise's first trip to the playoffs since the Montreal Expos advanced to the NLCS in the 1981 split season. Washington's 98-64 record was also the best in baseball, but it failed to get out of the NLDS, falling in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals after failing to hold leads of 6-0 and 7-5 in the series-deciding contest.

Strasburg will be on the hill Monday, as he begins the season unrestricted.

"Harper hit .270 last year. He had a rough stretch. And through all that (shutdown) thing at the end, Stras had some rough starts. I look at them to weather the bad times they went through last year. That's why we're very optimistic about this year," manager Davey Johnson said.

That brief taste of success left the Nats wanting more. They were able to get Johnson, winner of the NL Manager of the Year award, to return for the 2013 season before the 70-year-old moves into a consultant role next year and were big players in free agency.

Washington hit each aspect, adding center fielder Denard Span, right-handed starter Dan Haren and closer Rafael Soriano to form one of the deeper teams in the league and also brought back first baseman Adam LaRoche to fill out the meat of the order.

While the Nats are the odds-on favorites to repeat as NL East champions, not much is expected from a Miami team that underwent a complete overhaul this offseason.

Marlins fans had seen radical moves at the end of a season before, but those usually came after a World Series title, not after a year in which they were favored to make the playoffs and ultimately disappointed, going 68-83.

Miami stunned the baseball world with a shocking 12-player trade on Nov. 19 that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, starter Josh Johnson, outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck to the Toronto Blue Jays for a collection of mostly young prospects and a removal of around $160 million in salary off the books.

It also came after the Marlins had previously dealt Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez and Gaby Sanchez during the 2012 regular season.

Owner Jeffrey Loria, who had already gotten taxpayers to finance a large part of the new stadium, became public enemy No. 1, but his defense cry has been that a high payroll didn't work so it was time for another youth movement.

The moves made this winter certainly didn't bring much excitement unless the likes of Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco and Jon Rauch get your blood flowing.

First-year manager Mike Redmond may have his work cut out for him, as he takes over for Ozzie Guillen, who was fired after a tumultuous first season to say the least with the Marlins.

"It's a new start. It's a clean slate," Redmond said. "I think it's going to be an easy sell. The sell is the opportunity. There has been so much change and guys are so young. This reminds me a lot of '98, when I got to the big leagues. It was a great opportunity for us. Sure, there were good days and bad days, but we all went through it together. When we won the World Series in 2003, it was so satisfying with all that we had gone through."

One of the few Marlins fans will recognize from last year's club will be on the mound, as righty Ricky Nolasco makes his second Opening Day start. Nolasco, whose 76 big league wins are more than the rest of the Marlins' projected rotation combined (67), was 12-13 last season with a 4.48 ERA.

"He's the leader on that staff," Redmond said of his ace. "I know he's excited about it. He has that experience. He knows how to pitch. He knows the league."

The Marlins and Nationals split 18 head-to-head games last year.

04/01 10:24:46 ET

TV
  • HSFB: Football Friday with Tom Suiter

    Tonight at 11:35 on WRAL-TV

Scoreboard
Local
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
 
7:00pm Tonight
NCSU
BSU
7:00pm Tonight
PIT
CAR
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
GSW
8:00pm Tonight
UF
UNC
8:30pm Tonight
TULSA
ECU
Final
BOS 102
CHI 109
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
GSW
7:30pm Tonight
TOR
DAL
7:30pm Tonight
DET
MIL
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
NOP
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
LAC
8:00pm Tonight
OKC
NYK
8:00pm Tonight
IND
ORL
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
SAC
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
PHO
10:00pm Tonight
POR
MEM
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
MIN
Final
WMICH 21
NILL 31
 
Final
SMU 9
HOU 35
 
1st OT
IOWA 31
NEB 31
 
Final
SFLA 0
UCF 16
 
4th
MARS 52
WKENT 59
 
3rd
KSU 20
AKR 10
 
3rd
BGU 24
BST 34
 
4th
UMASS 7
BUF 34
 
4th
EMICH 16
TOL 52
 
2nd
MIZZ 3
ARK 14
 
1st
SALABAMA 10
NAVY 7
 
1st
ARZ 0
ARST 0
 
3:30pm Today
AFA
COLST
3:30pm Today
UCLA
STAN
8:00pm Tonight
VT
UVA
8:30pm Tonight
TULSA
ECU
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
 
Final
KU 82
TENN 67
 
Final
TEXAM 87
NO 65
 
Final
NCAT 57
RAD 65
 
2nd
GEOR 37
BUT 39
 
2nd
BRO 41
PVU 38
 
2nd
RIU 35
SCU 27
 
2nd
NARZ 34
SOUTH 28
 
1st
DART 17
MAST 21
 
1st
WRST 1
FIU 0
 
1st
XAV 4
UTEP 3
 
4:00pm Today
OSU
JMU
4:00pm Today
TXSOU
LAM
 
4:00pm Today
TAMCC
MVSU
 
4:00pm Today
AKAN
MIZST
4:00pm Today
BUCK
PSU
 
4:00pm Today
PROV
YALE
4:30pm Today
UGA
MINN
4:30pm Today
WISC
OKLA
5:00pm Tonight
Terriers
NORST
 
5:00pm Tonight
PEAY
STEPH
6:00pm Tonight
FSU
CSOU
 
6:00pm Tonight
VALPO
DRAK
6:00pm Tonight
CIN
MTST
6:00pm Tonight
SDU
PRIN
6:00pm Tonight
CSFU
USCU
6:15pm Tonight
WASU
RICE
6:30pm Tonight
GT
RIDE
7:00pm Tonight
TXPA
ALAST
7:00pm Tonight
NCSU
BSU
7:00pm Tonight
TCU
BRAD
7:00pm Tonight
WAKE
DELST
 
7:00pm Tonight
HART
EMERSON
 
7:00pm Tonight
STJ
GONZ
7:00pm Tonight
CLEM
HIGH
 
7:00pm Tonight
SYR
HC
 
7:00pm Tonight
MD
MON
7:00pm Tonight
JVST
SAV
 
7:00pm Tonight
MIAMI
SALA
7:00pm Tonight
RUTG
VANDY
7:30pm Tonight
PETE
TENST
8:00pm Tonight
MARS
CLST
8:00pm Tonight
JST
HOF
 
8:00pm Tonight
INDST
MEM
8:00pm Tonight
UF
UNC
8:00pm Tonight
LATU
SAMF
8:00pm Tonight
TULA
SELA
 
8:00pm Tonight
NEB
TENNM
8:30pm Tonight
MISS
CREI
8:30pm Tonight
PORT
MURST
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
MSU
9:00pm Tonight
ARK
UNT
9:00pm Tonight
NCOL
STET
 
9:00pm Tonight
IND
UNCG
9:00pm Tonight
SJST
WMICH
9:05pm Tonight
MNTST
TXARL
9:30pm Tonight
UVA
LAS
9:30pm Tonight
STLU
MSST
9:30pm Tonight
COLST
PAC
10:00pm Tonight
UTAH
NDAK
10:30pm Tonight
ILL
BAY
10:30pm Tonight
UAB
UCLA
11:30pm Tonight
WASH
LBSU
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
MERC
3rd
PHI 0
NYR 3
 
4:00pm Today
ANA
CHI
5:00pm Tonight
WAS
NYI
7:00pm Tonight
PIT
CAR
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
DET
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
MON
7:00pm Tonight
CLB
VAN
7:00pm Tonight
BOS
WIN
7:30pm Tonight
FLA
OTT
8:00pm Tonight
STL
EDM
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
MIN