Last year at this time, questions began to surface about how the Nationals would handle young hurler Stephen Strasburg.
Eventually, the club opted to cut the right-hander's season short to preserve his arm, as Strasburg had endured Tommy John surgery the year before.
This year, there are no such debates. Strasburg's 5-6 record might not illustrate it, but he may be pitching better -- and deeper into games -- than before.
He enters his final outing prior to the All-Star break sporting a 2.45 ERA, having allowed more than two earned runs in only five of his 17 starts. Over his last nine starts, he has compiled a 4-1 record and 1.89 ERA. During that span, he is averaging more than six innings per start.
In Friday's series opener at Marlins Park, Strasburg will be opposed by Miami right-hander Nathan Eovaldi. The 23-year-old has dazzled in his four outings this season, submitting a quality start each time out. Overall, he stands at 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA, having surrendered only seven runs in 24 2/3 innings.
The Marlins snapped a five-game skid with a 6-2 win against the Braves on Wednesday. Miami skipper Mike Redmond would like to see his club demonstrate more patience at the plate. Such a strategy could prevent Strasburg from pitching deep into Friday's game. Strasburg blanked the Marlins across seven innings on Opening Day.
"We need to do a better job of getting ourselves deeper into counts," Redmond said. "It seems like we'll burn that pitcher out a little bit in the first three innings. Then, as we get towards the middle, we'll have back-to-back first-pitch swings and soft outs. We can't do that."
Nationals: Desmond falls short in Final Vote campaign
• Washington shortstop Ian Desmond finished fourth in the National League All-Star Final Vote, behind Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and Giants outfielder Hunter Pence. Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez finished fifth.
Nats Manager Davey Johnson was disappointed that Desmond did not win.
"That's a shame, because [Desmond] is the best shortstop in the league," Johnson said.
Marlins: Yelich on the mend
• Outfield prospect Christian Yelich, recovering from an abdominal strain suffered last month, returned to Double-A Jacksonville on Wednesday. He started the season with the club, but played five games with the organization's rookie-level team and seven contests with Class A Jupiter as he rehabbed from his injury.
The franchise's first-round Draft pick in 2010, Yelich has posted a .311 average with 35 home runs in parts of four Minor League seasons.
• Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria extended his hitting streak to 10 games, matching his career high, on Wednesday, when he went 2-for-3. He is batting .436 (17-for-39) during the streak.
• The Marlins are 20-16 since May 31.
• Marlins starting pitchers have allowed more than three earned runs in a game only three times in the team's past 23 contests.
• Strasburg has made more starts (10) and posted more wins (five) against the Marlins than any other team.