All eyes will be on Chris Volstad this afternoon when he returns to the mound to face the Nationals for the first time since he slammed down his glove and dared Nyjer Morgan to take his best shot. That was 11 days ago in South Florida, when all heck broke loose.
But there's a subplot to Volstad vs. Washington, and that is this: If Volstad earns the "W" today, he'll become the first pitcher in Marlins history to record five wins against an opponent in one season.
You heard right. Volstad, who has faced the Nats four times so far this season and emerged with victories in all four, could be the Marlins' first 5-game winner against one team. Josh Beckett never did it. A.J. Burnett never did it. Kevin Brown never did it. Dontrelle Willis never did it. Livan Hernandez never did it. Alex Fernandez never did it. Heck, it's hard enough just facing the same opponent five times, much less winning each of them. The stars have to line up just right for it to happen.
According to reserach by Matt Roebuck, the Marlins' media relations guru, Volstad is only the third pitcher to win as many as four games. Brad Penny went 4-0 against the Expos in 2001 and Ryan Dempster was 4-1 against the Mets that same season.
The amazing thing is that Volstad hasn't exactly dominated the Nationals. He lasted five innings -- the bare minimum for a starter to qualify for a victory -- in defeating the Nationals the last two times he faced them. In those two outings, Volstad was aided by gobs of run support, as he gave up four runs on eight hits to them in the Marlins' 9-5 triumph on Aug. 11 and six runs on nine hits in the brawl-marred Sept. 1 outing that the Marlins won 16-10. Overall, Volstad's 4.50 ERA against the Nationals this season is nothing to write home about.
Still, I'm sure Volstad is more interested in the bottom line than any of the other numbers. After all, take away the Nationals, and Volstad is sitting on a 5-9 record. Not so hot.
But a W is a W is a W is a W is a W, at least the way Volstad hopes to be counting them after today.