Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nationals at Reds (5/29-5/31)

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May 25, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Tanner Roark (57) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Tanner Roark (1-1, 2.49 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (3-4, 3.03 ERA) – 1:10 PM ET, MASN2

To wrap up the weekend, the Nationals start Tanner Roark against Johnny Cueto for the Reds. After winning 15 games last year, Roark was the odd man out when the Nationals signed Max Scherzer and Roark started the year in the bullpen. He still doesn’t have a defined role, but I think that can be a good thing if you have the right guy.

Roark has closed a game, done some eighth inning work, worked as the long man, and started last week against the Cubs. His start against the Cubs was solid, he went five innings and gave up one run on three hits. I don’t think we can expect much more than five innings out of Roark as he is still stretching his arm out, but I think Nats’fans have come to expect five gritty, tough innings and Roark will never let the game get away from him

Last year, Tanner faced the Reds for a total of 13 innings and gave up two runs on nine hits (1-1, 1.38 ERA). I expect Tanner to do the same against this Reds lineup and go at least five and give up no more than two runs.

The Reds will start Johnny Cueto, who missed his last scheduled start due to elbow soreness. I am not sure how long Cueto has been dealing with that injury, but his last four starts in the month of May have not been good. He is 1-2 in May with a 4.45 ERA after a hot start in April where he went 2-2 with a 1.95 ERA.

Last year, Cueto did not fare well against the Nationals. Over 12.1 innings pitched, Cueto gave up ten hits and six earned runs. He did manage to strikeout 15 over those 12.1 innings, but his strikeout rate is down a bit this year due to his fastball losing a bit of velocity. This makes his off-speed pitches, most notably his changeup, less effective strikeout weapons.

Out of the players in the Nationals lineup, Denard Span has had the most success against Cueto, batting .500 in ten at-bats.

Advantage: Tanner Roark

Johnny Cueto is the more established pitcher and the more established choice, but coming off an injury and a poor showing in May, I can’t go with Cueto in this game. In addition, I love Roark’s attitude when he is on the mound and his attitude toward his role on this club. He is just happy to help wherever he can and will do whatever is asked of him. Every time he is called upon to pitch, it is going to be a solid performance and I just don’t know what to expect from Cueto coming off an injury and a down month. I have to ride the hot hand and Tanner Roark is that hot hand. Look for the Nats to close out the series with a win on five solid innings from Tanner Roark.

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