Nationals in St. Louis for three-game set with Cardinals: Series preview Q&A pt. 1

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In anticipation of this weekend's three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium we talked to our fellow SB Nation writers at Viva El Birdos to preview the matchup. Here's Pt. 1 of 2 in which we talked Nationals. Pt. 2 coming soon...

The Washington Nationals dropped all six games with St. Louis last season, after losing the NLDS to the Cardinals in devastating fashion in 2012, so the split they earned in the four-game set with the Cards this past April was something of a minor victory.

Going into this weekend's series, however, they're 1-5 in their last six regular season games in Busch Stadium going back to the 2012 campaign, though they managed to win one of two postseason games in the Cards' home that fall.

"They've got a really good [bullpen]. They've got good starters. They've got a good offense. They play good defense. Their bullpen is fantastic." -Matt Williams on the Cardinals during first series of 2014

The 35-30 Nationals return to 700 Clark Street tonight to start a three-game road trip-ending set with the 34-32 Cardinals.

Before the Nats and Cards meet at 8:15 pm EDT tonight with Jordan Zimmermann on the mound against Lance Lynn in the house that beer built, we talked to the SB Nation's Cards site, Viva El Birdos, for a two-part interview that starts with us answering questions about the Nationals. Pt. 2 will be up later this afternoon. Check out one question and answer below and there's a link to the rest at the end of this post:

Viva El Birdos: Looking at the team leaderboard, two players stand out to me as surprises. Adam LaRoche has been superb (156 wRC+ so far), and Tanner Roark has been good (2.91 ERA, 3.51 FIP). What's gotten into them, and do you think they'll continue to produce at this level?

Federal Baseball: LaRoche, when healthy, has been solid since he came to the nation's capital. Unfortunately, it's been a year-off-year-on thing. He was injured and his first season ended early after surgery in 2011, then he was a big part of the Nationals' run in 2012 when he returned to the lineup at full strength.

Last season, he dealt with issues with the medication he takes for ADD and he was forced to undergo surgery after the season for an elbow issue, so I'm not sure if he was ever healthy at all last season. This season, he's taken it to another level thus far. I don't think anyone anticipated the sort of offensive production he's provided thus far. It is also a contract year, though I know that never factors into these things. There's a $15M mutual option for 2015, but I'm guessing he's going to look for more than a one-year deal since at 34, it will likely be his last opportunity to get one.

"I wasn't doing too hot and I just got over it mentally. That was the biggest thing. I knew I had the tools, I just needed to get out of my own head..." -Tanner Roark on personal breakthrough, January 2014

Tanner Roark? I'm not convinced he didn't have some sort of John Travolta-in-Phenomenon-esque experience at some point in the last 2-3 years. Yes, I just made a George Malley reference. I'm not sure how else you explain it.

Roark was stalled at Triple-A, when he says he, "just got over it mentally," and told himself that he knew he had the stuff to make it work. He's just taken off since then. He was impressive at Triple-A last season, but has just been unreal since he debuted in the majors. Davey Johnson said last season it was all about his command and ability to locate his pitches wherever he throws them that has allowed him to have the success he has thus far. I keep on waiting for the league to figure him out and start hitting him, but it hasn't happened yet, and he's just one of those guys that's obviously worked hard to get to where he is so he's easy to like and it's fun to watch what he's been able to do...

• Check out the entire Q&A with Viva El Birdos through the link below:

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