Dusty Baker talked during the last homestand about putting his lineup plans together days and weeks in advance.
He was asked that night about leaving Bryce Harper out of the series finale against the New York Mets and left-hander Steven Matz, and Baker explained it was a decision he made with an eye on the games that followed, first against St. Louis in D.C. and then on the road, in Philadelphia, then Cincinnati and now Chicago, where Washington starts a three-game set with the White Sox tonight.
"There [are] a couple guys I think need days off to keep them strong during the whole course of the year," Baker said.
"And I didn't want to sit Bryce and a couple guys at the same time against St. Louis and I wasn't going to sit Bryce against the Phillies in that little band box and then we go to another band box from there in Cincinnati and so when I started adding up things and I figured that against a tough lefty this was the day to sit him and then after that we play the White Sox where I can give some other guys a day off and let them DH, maybe including Bryce.
"I'm looking not only at the schedule today, I'm looking at the schedule for the next ten days which I always do."
Harper, who is in the lineup tonight, has hits in seven of eight games since that day off, and he collected three hits in Sunday's series finale in Cincinnati for his first three-hit game since April 15th.
Jayson Werth is getting a chance to rest his legs and serve as the DH tonight in the series opener in Chicago. Werth, 37, has a .220/.272/.414 line on the year, but Baker's hoping the veteran outfielder warms up along with the weather as the summer goes along.
Ryan Zimmerman, who was reinstated from the Paternity List yesterday on the Nationals' off day between series, is back at first base tonight.
He seemed to be heating up at the plate before he took time off for the birth of his second child, with a .270/.320/.550 line, eight doubles and seven home runs over his last 122 PAs after he finished the month of April at .219/.301/.301.
Here's the Nationals' lineup for the series opener with the White Sox: