Cards will try to avoid series sweep by Nationals
The Washington Nationals have quickly gotten back on track after a disappointing performance earlier this week and have a chance to register their first three-game road sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in 30 years.
The Nationals will look to pull off that feat Sunday while trying to thwart Carlos Martinez’s attempt to win his first five starts.
Washington (16-7) plated just three runs while getting swept in three home games against Philadelphia but has totaled 11 in the first two of 10 straight road contests.
Jayson Werth homered in the first and drove in four runs in a 6-1 victory Saturday as the Nationals continued the franchise’s best start since opening 18-7 in 1979.
"You can’t win anything in April, but you can lose it," Werth said. "We’ve got great chemistry."
The Nationals will try to add their first three-game sweep in St. Louis since June 9-11, 1986, when they were the Montreal Expos.
"It’s tough to come in here and sweep the Cardinals," manager Dusty Baker said. "I wouldn’t mind a reverse sweep because we just got swept."
Standing in their way is Martinez (4-0, 1.93 ERA), who is coming off one of the best performances of his career. The 24-year-old will be looking to change the conversation after leaving the team briefly to address a legal matter.
Martinez is the object of a civil lawsuit filed against him by a woman in West Palm Beach, Florida, near the team’s spring training site in Jupiter, and general manager John Mozeliak said Saturday he was aware of the case.
The right-hander yielded three hits and one walk in eight scoreless innings Tuesday in an 8-2 victory in Arizona and is looking to become the first Cardinals pitcher to win his first five starts since Lance Lynn began 6-0 in 2012.
"We’ve just seen different styles (from Martinez)," manager Mike Matheny said. "(In this start), he was making off-speed pitches whenever he wanted to and then all of a sudden he waits until almost pitch 100 to show 98 (mph). He has that ability."
In his first start against the Nationals, Martinez will pitch opposite Max Scherzer (2-1, 4.35), who’s seeking his first win over St. Louis (12-12). The right-hander has failed to earn a win against just one other club, his former Detroit Tigers.
Scherzer is 0-2 with a 3.52 ERA in four starts against his hometown team and went 0-1 with a 2.77 ERA in two matchups in 2015. He gave up two runs and 11 hits over six innings while striking out 10 in his lone start in St. Louis, a 4-3 win Sept. 2.
Scherzer was mostly solid Tuesday after his first defeat – a 5-1 loss at Miami on April 21 – but he walked a season-high four in a 4-3 loss to Philadelphia. He allowed three runs in six innings while striking out seven for the third time in five starts.
Scherzer said his mechanics haven’t been quite right in his past two outings.
"You go through funks and right now this is a funk," he told MLB’s official website. "But at the end of the day, this is an easy thing to correct. This is just a minor tweak. You get through it."
St. Louis will try to avoid matching its longest losing streak, a four-game skid – all at home – from June 30-July 3.
The Cardinals will also try to avoid dropping below .500 this late into a season for just the second time since finishing 78-84 in 2007. They were 19-20 on May 12, 2014.