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Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips celebrate a Reds win.
Yes, the Nationals did what a good team should do against an inferior one. They beat them handily, never really offering any reason to believe they were going to lose any of those three games this week. But you have to be careful not to draw too many conclusions about Davey Johnson's club based solely on its performance against Miami.
That won't still be the case come Sunday night, after the Nats have had a chance to play a full weekend slate against perhaps the toughest opponent they'll face all season: the Reds.
Cincinnati perhaps doesn't get the credit and attention it deserves, but make no mistake, this is one of the very best teams in baseball entering the season. Dusty Baker's boys won 97 games last year, return just about everyone, added a high-OBP leadoff man in Shin-Soo Choo, have a perennial MVP candidate in Joey Votto, a deep and talented rotation and a devastating closer in Aroldis Chapman.
The Reds already have faced a tough challenge this season, opening up with an interleague series victory over the potent Angels. And they pose a particularly dangerous threat in their cozy ballpark along the shores of the Ohio River.
"They're a good team," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "They just came off a tough series with the Angels, and that's one of the other best teams in the National League. It's early, but it's one of those series where you go in and it's going to be a tough series."
Tonight's opener might prove the toughest of the three for the Nationals. Dan Haren makes his debut for the club in an unfriendly venue, facing a lineup loaded with left-handed power. The veteran righty has made only four previous appearances at Great American BallPark and has surrendered 10 runs over 19 2/3 innings. The good news: Haren was dominant in his most-recent start there in 2009, allowing one run over seven innings.
Ross Detwiler starts tomorrow afternoon's game against Mike Leake. Then comes the premier matchup of the series: Stephen Strasburg vs. Johnny Cueto on Sunday in a showdown of aces.
So, is it possible to play a "big series" on the first weekend in April?
"No," Zimmerman insisted. "If we sweep or if we get swept or whatever, I think it's a little too early to talk about that kind of stuff. We play them, and then we come home and play them (April 25-28). I think we'll be done with them before April. Which is kind of unfortunate, because neither team will get a chance to really get into a groove and establish themselves as what kind of team they are. It's a good team and a good matchup. Whether it's April or September, you've still got to go in there and try to win the series, just like everyone else."