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Dusty Baker on Nationals big test vs Cardinals, Royals and Cubs: "The way I'm looking at it, they're going up against us."

Washington's Nationals got off on the good foot on their ten-game, three-city swing through the Midwest with a win over the St. Louis Cardinals last night, in a park where they've historically struggled to win games. Dusty Baker talked about road trips...

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Dusty Baker talked before the finale of Washington's three-game set with the Philadelphia Phillies about the difficult ten-game, three-city road trip that started last night in St. Louis.

It will continue in Kansas City in Monday, before the Nationals move on to play four in Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs.

"Usually road trips -- at home is always a test," Baker said changing direction momentarily, "but usually the road trips are more of a test, because you're playing on their turf, you're sleeping in foreign beds, you're traveling, and they have the last at bat.

"There are three or four times on the schedule where you say, 'Hey this is going to be a heck of a road trip,' or whatever..." -Dusty Baker on Nats' ten-day, three-city road trip to St. L, KC, CHI

"Like, me and my brother were playing games in our back yard, he always wanted to hit first and I always wanted to hit last, to get the last at bat, which is big, because at home you only have to play eight and a half innings, but on the road you've got to play a full nine if you have the lead and so it's a big test."

Three with the Cardinals, three with the Royals and four with the Cubs is a big test, and one Baker said the Nationals were preparing for since the schedule for the season was released.

"There are three or four times on the schedule where you say, 'Hey this is going to be a heck of a road trip,' or whatever and this is going to be a test to see -- a barometer to see how good we are right now.

"We're not full-forces yet, we haven't been and we've done pretty well, because Ben Revere, one of our igniters, is getting ready. So, it's going to be a test road [trip].

"We've got good pitching, most of the time big ballparks, different elements that you have to deal with. In the Midwest you've always got the elements to deal with, so it's going to be exciting."

It all started in a park where the Nationals have historically struggled, however, dropping 18 of 24 overall and 20 of the last 23 in Busch Stadium III.

Washington's win in the series finale of last August/September's series in St. Louis snapped a streak of nine straight regular season losses in the Cardinals' home, which stretched back to September 29, 2012.

"I just know my guys will rise to the occasion. Sometimes you're a good team, you play to the level of competition and we're trying not to be that team." -Dusty Baker on facing the Cards, Royals and Cubs

Baker said before the series opener with the Cards, that he knew his team was ready for the challenge.

"I just know my guys will rise to the occasion," he told reporters. "Sometimes you're a good team, you play to the level of competition and we're trying not to be that team.

"We're trying to establish that we play to our level and not to the level of the competition. The guys don't feel any undue pressure or anything, you've still got to play who you play and you've got to play whoever is in the way."

With all the talk of the big test the Nationals will face, and the tough opponents they'll take on, Baker said, he looked at it a little differently.

"The way I'm looking at it, they're going up against us. That's how I look at it. And I don't see us really measuring up to them or anyone.

"You've got to be satisfied in your own skin. We know that we're playing some good teams, but we also know that we're a good team.

"And so it's going to be an exciting nine or ten days, but you can't only play well against the good teams you've got to play well against everybody."

The Nationals played well enough to win on Friday night, taking the series opener from the Cardinals, 5-4, with a solid start by Stephen Strasburg and some power from Michael A. Taylor and Danny Espinosa, who both homered.

Daniel Murphy drove in a run with a single and Jayson Werth hit a sac fly as well.

"It's good to see some other guys coming through and sometimes you've just got to be patient and wait on them," Baker said, acknowledging the slow starts of some of his players.

"It's hard because everybody wants you to panic, but there's no panic around here. Boy that was a big game for us to win."

Big time, as Baker is fond of saying.