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Washington Nationals’ lineup for series opener with Giants in San Francisco’s AT&T Park

Dusty Baker is back on the bench this afternoon as the Nationals open up a three-game set with the Giants in AT&T Park.

Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Washington’s Nationals didn’t get the start they were looking for out of Joe Ross on Sunday, but the bullpen came up big with two scoreless each from Justin Turner and Blake Treinen and another scoreless frame from Enny Romero. Considering that Ross struggled like he did, things could have been worse for the Nationals.

“We’ve got a long stretch here,” Chris Speier said after the loss to the San Diego Padres in the series finale in D.C., “... and the last thing we want to do is blow up our bullpen.”

The Nationals have a day off this Thursday, but they are in the midst of a stretch of 28 games in 29 days and they are embarking on a nine-game road trip that takes them to San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles, starting in AT&T Park this afternoon.

“You don’t want to start your road trip, especially this long spell that we have, with a short bullpen,” Speier added.

Washington’s offense struggled with runners in scoring position (1 for 11 on Sunday) and left nine men on base overall in Sunday’s loss to the Padres, but they also sat four regulars (Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth and Matt Wieters) in the finale of the three-game set, which Speier said was part of Dusty Baker’s plan to get everyone ready for the series with the Giants and upcoming matchups with the A’s and Dodgers.

“I think it was fairly well-known that we have some guys that were battling some fatigue and illness, things going on,” Speier explained, “and the extra time that they can get rest is going to help them in this stretch, but there were some guys that were scheduled days off today, so I’m following my skipper’s commands from afar.”

Baker was away from the team to attend his son’s high school graduation, but clearly left some instructions behind for Speier.

Washington went 9-1 on the Nationals’ last extended road trip, which took them from Atlanta to New York and out to Colorado and they head out to San Francisco with a 14-10 record on the road this season.

Speier was asked what the biggest challenge was on the trip out West.

“Sunscreen,” he joked.

“No, it’s — they’re good teams, those are teams that are playing well. It comes down to the same things that most teams look for, and that’s get that great starting pitching and timely hitting, so it’s just a matter of staying focused.”

Baker is back on the bench this afternoon.