Nationals

Quick Links

Nationals look to complete sweep of Cardinals behind ace Max Scherzer

Nationals look to complete sweep of Cardinals behind ace Max Scherzer

WASHINGTON -- Mike Leake was 22 years old when he broke into the major leagues with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010.

His skipper was Dusty Baker, who managed the Reds through the 2013 season. Leake won 42 games under Baker from 2010-13.

"It was awesome," said Leake on Tuesday, standing in the St. Louis Cardinals' clubhouse at Nationals Park. "I couldn't ask for a better first manager. He treated me like a son and I appreciate that."

Leake will face his former manager on Wednesday when he starts on the mound against Baker's Washington Nationals in the series finale in the nation's capital.

The Nationals' starter will be Max Scherzer, who won the National League Cy Young Award last season when he was 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA.

Leake was 9-12 in 30 starts for the Cardinals last season -- his first with the club. He will be challenged by Washington's offense, which had 19 hits against St. Louis in a 14-6 win Monday and then 11 more with three homers in an 8-3 victory Tuesday.

"I feel like I had a pretty good spring. I look forward to facing these guys," Leake said. "It is a tough lineup that can hurt you at any time. You have to be ready for them. I know they are led by a good manager."

Leake has enjoyed success in his career against the heart of the Washington order.

Second baseman Daniel Murphy is hitting just .238 against him in 21 at-bats, while first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has an average of .211 in 19 at-bats. Murphy had four hits and drove in five runs Tuesday.

Right fielder Bryce Harper is just 3-for-13 against Leake, but two of those hits are homers. The best everyday hitter for the Nationals against Leake is left fielder Jayson Werth, who is batting .292 in 24 trips to the plate. He hit one of the homers Tuesday.

"A veteran guy," Cardinals catcher Eric Fryer said of Leake. "In the spring he was effective in getting ahead of the hitters. When he keeps it on the ground, he is very effective."

"I will be watching the first couple of days from the side and if I need further evidence of what I can't see I will go to the tape," Leake said of facing Washington. "I have faced most of these guys."

Scherzer will make his second start of the year after he won at Philadelphia on Friday.

The right-hander from St. Louis went 6 2/3 innings and gave up two runs and four hits in his first start of the year.

Scherzer hopes to get support from an offense that has included a rare hot start from Zimmerman, who hit a career-low .218 last season but is batting .367 this year.

"I am just excited to get off to a good start," Zimmerman told 106.7 The Fan on Tuesday. "Not many times in my career I have gotten off to a good start. Our lineup is so good."

The Nationals own the top batting average in the league, but they lost shortstop and leadoff hitter Trea Turner to the disabled list on Monday. He was replaced as the leadoff hitter by Adam Eaton, who had three hits Monday.

"Our lineup is so good. Eaton jumps right into the leadoff spot," Zimmerman told 106.7 The Fan. "It is a fun lineup to be a part of."

Related: Daniel Murphy has career night against Cardinals

Quick Links

Carter Kieboom has a mentor at spring training: veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera

Carter Kieboom has a mentor at spring training: veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera

With Trea Turner at shortstop and Starlin Castro at second base, the Nationals have two reliable veterans at the two positions Carter Kieboom has always played. 

So now, the Nationals' top prospect is competing for the starting third base job with seasoned veteran Asdrubal Cabrera. Once one of the best shortstops in baseball, Cabrera has fallen off defensively and has limited range nowadays, though he was still a key contributor to the Nationals' World Series championship in 2019. 

Instead of viewing Kieboom as just his competition and doing everything he can to win the job, Cabrera has taken on the role of mentor for the 22-year-old infielder.

“(Cabrera) takes ground balls with (Kieboom) every day,” Martinez said, according to MASN's Pete Kerzel. “I’ve asked him, ‘Hey, you need to take ground balls at second, too, and short sometimes.’ Religiously, for the purpose of being with Carter, he stands with Carter, helping him with his throws, making sure he understands that footwork is important when he’s throwing. ... He talks to him all the time about a bunch of different things, how to play positions, not take your at-bats to the field. He’s been unbelievable with him, he really has. It’s been good for Carter.”

Kieboom has struggled with errors through the early days of spring ball, which is to be expected considering he's a young player at a position he's never played regularly on the professional level. While a bunch of errors in February are nothing to get too concerned over, Kieboom will have to cut those down in March if he wants to win the job. 

Cabrera is seen as the backup plan at third if Kieboom can't secure the job during spring training. The 34-year-old is entering his 14th season and would probably be better maximized if he didn't have to play every day. 

If Kieboom isn't ready though, it wouldn't be the best idea for the Nationals to force it. So over the course of the next three weeks, we'll see just how much Cabrera can help the youngster. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Jayson Werth explains why he 'always thought' Bryce Harper could end up with Phillies

Jayson Werth explains why he 'always thought' Bryce Harper could end up with Phillies

During Phillies spring training on Friday, Jayson Werth visited his old team and former Nationals teammate Bryce Harper. It just so happened he had arrived on the one-year anniversary of Bryce Harper deciding to leave Washington to sign a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies. 

Werth spent six seasons sharing an outfield with Harper but before his days in Washington, he helped the Phillies win the World Series in 2008. His play in Philadelphia earned him a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals in 2011. 

Harper's exit from DC is a sore subject for Nationals fans, even though a World Series championship definitely helped numb the pain. Werth explained in a story by NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury that he always had a hunch Harper could end up in Philly. 

"I always thought this would be a possible destination for him, even way back when, for a bunch of reasons," Werth said. "Kind of where the team was, the money was right, the owner was right, the town's right.

"But more than anything else," Werth added with widening eyes, "Citizens Bank Park is just an awesome place to hit. We always talked about that."

Werth clarified he doesn't want anyone to think he was pushing Harper to Philadelphia, just that as players they naturally had plenty of conversations about other ballparks. And it's hard to argue with that. 

Before he played a single game for the Phillies, Harper was Citizens Bank Park's all-time leader in slugging percentage. In 2019, Harper hit the second-most homers of his career (35) and his second-highest slugging percentage as well.

Werth even enjoyed a nice bump hitting in Philadelphia. During his time with the Nats, Werth his .291 with a .922 OPS to go along with 15 home runs and 45 RBI in 52 trips to Citizens Bank Park. 

Between the 81 games in a hitters ballpark and a $330 million contract without the deferred payments the Nationals reportedly offered to Harper last year, it makes a decent amount of sense he decided to take his talents north. 

But hey, the Nationals won a World Series the following season, and in epic fashion I might add, while there's no guarantee the Phillies get there any time soon. I mean, have you seen their pitching staff outside of Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler?

So Bryce is happy and Nats fans are happy. Everyone wins, right? 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: