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Cardinals next three games are against the Nationals

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A series preview

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals have played three games against a really good team, playing three close games and only winning once. They’ve also played three games against a pretty bad team, getting shut out twice and winning just once. If there is a pattern to be developed from the next series, it is that they are now playing a really good team again. The team will miss Stephen Strasburg, but they will also miss Jeremy Guthrie or whomever the Nationals use in their fifth spot. The Cardinals next three games are scheduled against the Nationals.

The Nationals, perhaps more than any team in baseball, are a throwback to, and a reminder of, the Cardinals’ teams of the mid-2000s. They have their Pujols in Bryce Harper, and while Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon aren’t exactly Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen, the Nationals are an incredibly top-heavy team.

Adam Eaton is solid and Trea Turner—who might not play this series—are good players, but Jason Werth is past his prime. Ryan Zimmerman has been relegated to first base and isn’t very good. Matt Wieters has failed to live up to his once-great promise, not really hitting all that well, and not being great at defense.

The team has Adam Lind on the bench, and he might be better than Zimmerman at this point. Stephen Drew was once a decent player who some preferred as a free agent over Jhonny Peralta years ago, but he doesn’t really provide much. The Nationals have a few really good players, but not much at the end of the lineup and not much on the bench in terms of depth either. Their bullpen might be a mess, but it is too early to say.

If the Nationals stay healthy, along with the very good rotation, the team could win 100 games. They pose quite an early-season test for the Cardinals coming off a poor first week. This series is on the road, and if you believe in last season’s narrative, the Cardinals might do better there than at home. If they do worse than they did at home last week, expect panic from Cardinals fans.

In tonight’s game, Tanner Roark will make his second start of the season. In his first start of the season against the Marlins, Roark pitched six innings, struck out six against two walks and gave up two runs. The 30-year-old right-hander doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he was effective last season with a 3.79 FIP and somewhat lucky 2.83 ERA. There’s no reason to think he isn’t at least a league-average starter, which is a nice player to be. Adam Wainwright, who had a solid start his first time out, will go for the Cardinals.

On Tuesday, Gio Gonzalez will make the start for Washington. The lefty pitched six shutout innings in his first start, striking out seven, walking one batter and hitting another. Gonzalez hasn’t pitched 200 innings since 2011, but he also hasn’t pitched fewer than 158 innings in each of the last five years. He put up a 3.76 FIP similar to Roark above, but perhaps balancing out Roark’s luck, Gonzalez had a 4.57 ERA. Gonzalez has a traditional fastball, curve, change repertoire, though he throws both a fourseamer and twoseamer. He featured his fourseamer more often in his first start. Lance Lynn will throw again for the Cardinals after a solid first start last week.

Max Scherzer, who is from Missouri, will pitch on Wednesday. Not sure what needs to be said about Scherzer as he is fantastic and won the Cy Young award last season. There was some question about whether Scherzer would be able to start the season on time due to a knuckle situation—technically he didn’t start Opening Day, but he didn’t miss a rotation turn—but Scherzer pitched 6.2 innings and struck out seven with two walks and two runs against the Phillies in his first start. Mike Leake will start for the Cardinals.

Tonight, 6:05 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest

Tuesday, April 11, 6:05 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest, ESPN

Wednesday, 3:05 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest