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Washington Nationals Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals come to town for three...

For the second time in three series, the Nationals take on the Cardinals in a three-game set...

Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals continued their hot-and-cold start to the season during their four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, splitting the series with two wins each.

In the two wins, they got great pitching from Max Scherzer and Erick Fedde to guide them home.

In the two losses, the pitching was sub-standard and the offense wasn’t much better. Their play still has a bit of a disjointed feel to it in the early stages of the season.

Now, the Nationals will take on the St. Louis Cardinals for the second time in three series as they come to Washington for a three-game set.

Here’s the lowdown ahead of the three games in the nation’s capital...

The schedule

  • Game One: Monday, April 19th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN and MLB Network (out-of-market), Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Tuesday, 20th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Wednesday, April 21st, 4:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Pitching matchups

  • Game One: Joe Ross (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs Jack Flaherty (2-0, 4.11 ERA)
  • Game Two: Patrick Corbin (0-2, 21.32 ERA) vs Adam Wainwright (0-2, 7.11 ERA)
  • Game Three: Max Scherzer (0-1, 2.37 ERA) vs Carlos Martínez (0-3, 7.80 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Joe Ross: The last meaningful game that Ross started for Washington before this season was Game 5 of the 2019 World Series. After opting out of the 2020 season, the right-hander has shown exactly why he was picked to step in for Max Scherzer in the Fall Classic.

In his first two starts this year, Ross has yet to allow a run in 11 innings of work, striking out nine and walking three. Six of those scoreless innings coming against the same Cardinals that he’s due to face on Monday as he looks to keep his strong start to the year going.

Dylan Carlson: Though the Cardinals continue to collectively be underwhelming at the plate, Carlson, the team’s former top prospect, has started to heat up at the plate as of late.

In his last 11 games, Carlson has slashed .306/.390/.556 with three double, two home runs, and six RBIs, taking his slash line up to .255/.357/.511 on the season.

Though he continues to hit in the bottom third of the lineup, if he can continue to flash his offensive potential, given with some of the other struggling hitters in the lineup, he could end up being bumped up in the batting order.

Who’s not?

Josh Bell: The big lineup acquisition from the winter made his slightly delayed regular-season debut for the Nationals on Monday in St. Louis. However, it’s been a rough start for the slugger who owns a .100/.208/.150 slash line through his first 20 at-bats with the team.

“He missed some time, so I think it’s a timing issue a little bit,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said after Saturday’s game. “He hit a couple balls hard today. It’s just a matter of time.

“He can hit, there’s no doubt about it. Especially left-handed he can really hit. So, it’s a little bit of his timing, but he’ll get it.”

With a long swing and a lot of moving parts to it, timing is especially important for Bell at the plate. It’s also a reason why he can be a streaky hitter at times if his timing gets slightly off.

Hopefully, as his skipper says, it should just be a matter of getting at-bats before he heats up.

Carlos Martínez: Long thought to be the Cardinals’ ace of the future, Martínez hasn’t quite met those expectations so far in his career. He also hasn’t gotten off to a great start to the 2021 season with an 0-3 record and a 7.80 ERA in his first three starts of the year.

In his latest start against the Phillies, the right-hander was undone by a six-run second inning where his center fielder made a costly error and he grazed the opposing pitcher with a hit by pitch. Aside from that, he had four scoreless innings with a walk and four strikeouts.

Martínez is set to face the Nationals in Wednesday’s series finale and will hope to carry over the good from his previous start into this start in the nation’s capital.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Cardinals storylines from our friends at Viva El Birdos...

One more thing to watch

Were it not for Stephen Strasburg going to the Injured List with right shoulder inflammation on Sunday, it would be fair to wonder how secure Patrick Corbin’s spot in the rotation would be given how promising Ross and Erick Fedde have looked in their past couple of starts.

In the series opener against the Diamondbacks, Corbin was rocked for a second consecutive start to open the season. The left-hander allowed ten runs, nine of them earned, in just two innings of work on Thursday, walking four and striking out just one batter.

It’s not just been run-of-the-mill poor outings for Corbin though.

In both starts, the opposing lineups have been able to tee off on his pitching with ease.

Neither Corbin nor his skipper could pinpoint one particular thing that might be causing the rough start.

“I’ll start looking at his pace, maybe he’s getting a little quick,” Martinez told reporters after Thursday’s game.

“We’ll start looking at all those things, because like I said, I watched mechanically, I watched him and I just watched a little bit now, and it didn’t look like anything was different

“So I want to watch — we’ll talk about his spin rate, and see where that’s at tomorrow and all these other things and then we’ll go from there.”

Jon Lester is set to throw a simulated game on Tuesday with the hope of getting him to throw “five innings, 80, 85 pitches” according to Martinez. That could allow his return from the IL at the weekend or early next week if they want him to have one more sim game.

Assuming all goes to plan with Lester, depending on when Strasburg is due to return, Corbin might need to turn things around before then if he wants to keep his spot in the rotation.

It’s only been two starts for Corbin, but they’ve come with significant concern already.