Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats vs. Cubs (5/25-27)

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May 4, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Tanner Roark (57) throws to the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning at Nationals Park. The Washington Nationals won 6-4. Mandatory Credit:

Brad Mills


Today’s Matchup

Tanner Roark (0-2, 2.66 ERA) vs. Tsuyoshi Wada (0-0, 3.86 ERA) — 2:20 p.m. ET, MASN 2

When the Nationals signed Max Scherzer during the offseason, many wondered what the team would do with right-hander Tanner Roark. Over the last two years, Roark had developed into one of the team’s most reliable young starters and excelled as a starting pitcher last season. With Scherzer in the fold, however, Roark lost his spot in the rotation and was relegated to a bullpen role.

Of course, this is a great problem for the Nationals to have. The team isn’t too far removed from the day’s of John Lannan being the only decent pitcher in the rotation, and the fact that a player like Roark was forced to take up a bullpen job is a testament to how dominant this rotation is. More importantly, having Roark in the bullpen gives the Nationals a commodity that very few teams in baseball have: a reliever that also happens to be one of the best starting pitcher’s in the game.

Roark dominated as a starter last season, going 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA. By sending the right-hander to the ‘pen, the Nationals knew they would be missing out on a great starting pitcher, but they also knew that they had him in their back pocket for whenever they needed him. Today, the Nationals need Roark, and they’re as fortunate as ever to have him on their pitching staff.

The right-hander will make his first start of the season today against the Cubs in place of the injured Doug Fister, who is on the disabled list with a strained forearm. We don’t know how long Fister will be out, so it’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll be seeing Roark start at least a couple more games in the coming weeks.

It’ll be interesting to see how Roark responds in his first start of the season, since he hasn’t really thrown a whole lot of pitches this year. He’s been successful out of the ‘pen, however, and given what we saw from him last season it wouldn’t be surprising if we see a dominant start from the right-hander.

The Cubs will counter with left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who will be making his second start of the season. The left-hander pitched well his last time out, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out a career-high nine batters over 4 2/3 innings.

Wada was limited to just 69 pitches in his last start as he continues to work his way back from a groin injury that he suffered during Spring Training that forced him to miss most of the first two months of the season. Despite the time he missed. Ada was still solid his last time out and should continue to pitch well this afternoon against the Nationals.

Advantage: It’s hard to predict how today’s game will go in terms of starting pitchers, since neither pitcher have had a whole lot of experience as starters this season. but given Roark’s 2.66 ERA in the ‘pen this season and his overwhelming success as a starter this season, the Nationals certainly have the advantage in today’s pitching matchup.

There may be some rust on Roark’s part and he may not pitch too deep into the game since it’ll be his first start of the season, but he’s still been successful this season and has shown that he can be an elite starter in numerous occasions in the past. Plus, Wada will likely be even more rusty than Roark, as the Cubs’ left-hander has pitched just 4 2/3 innings this season.

Next: Tuesday's Matchup