National vs. Cardinals Series Info:
Game 1: Monday, April 10 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)
Game 2: Tuesday, April 11 at 7:00 p.m. EST (ESPN/106.7)
Game 3: Wednesday, April 12 at 4:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)
Monday: Tanner Roark (1-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (0-1, 3.60)
Tuesday: Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 0.00) vs. Lance Lynn (0-0, 3.38)
Wednesday: Max Scherzer (1-0, 2.70) vs. Mike Leake (0-1, 1.13)
What to watch for:
Bullpen struggling early in season
After the closer role dominated media attention for most of Spring Training, the bullpen as a whole has struggled throughout the first two series of the year.
The Nats’ relief corps owns an unsettling 7.52 ERA on the season and already has two blown saves.
Stephen Strasburg going seven innings Sunday gave most of the bullpen a day off heading into the St. Louis series, but the relievers are going to need to turn things around if the Nats are going to get back to their winning ways.
Trea Turner out with hamstring injury
Nationals leadoff man Trea Turner has gotten off to a slow start — hitting .158 (3-of-19) with seven strikeouts — but things got worse Saturday when he left the game in the first inning with a hamstring injury.
Turner didn’t play against the Phillies on Sunday in the series finale and remains listed day-to-day heading into Monday’s contest.
Adam Eaton stepped in at the leadoff spot in Turner’s absence and will likely hang onto the role until he returns, but it will be interesting to see whether Nats manager Dusty Baker goes with veteran Stephen Drew or 25-year-old Wilmer Difo at shortstop in the meantime.
Cardinals offense sputtering
Although they did beat the Cincinnati Reds 10-4 on Saturday, the Cards have failed to eclipse four runs in every other game they’ve played so far this season.
Their lack of offense has been perhaps the biggest reason for their 2-4 start. Just two players that’ve started at least five games sport a batting average above .217.
After finishing second to the Baltimore Orioles with 225 home runs last season, St. Louis has only hit three balls out of the yard so far — tied for the second-fewest in baseball.
Who to watch out for: Yadier Molina
Molina hasn’t necessarily crushed Nats pitching in the past — he owns a .214/.257/.319 slash line against them — but his five home runs off Washington arms are tied for his third most against teams not in the NL Central.
The Cardinals’ backstop has gotten off to a hot start, hitting .278/.391/.333 with three RBIs and four walks. Molina and Aledmys Diaz have been the only bright spots for the Cardinals’ offense thus far.
Keeping Molina at bay will be one of the biggest priorities for the Nats’ pitchers when looking up and down the Cardinals’ lineup.
If they can limit his offensive production, dealing with the batting order as a whole becomes a much easier task.