Nationals In Town To Re-Open D.C. Baseball History

Baseball returns to Washington, D.C. this season, but the Nationals open on the road while finishing touches are put on R.F.K. Stadium. The Nationals made a lot of offseason moves and hope that simply having one place to call home will help their efforts in the NL East.

Pitching Probables
Monday, April 4, 2005 - 3:05PM EST
L. Hernandez (11-15, 3.60) vs. J. Lieber (14-8, 4.33)
Wednesday, April 6, 2005 – 7:05PM EST
Z. Day (9-6, 3.05) vs. B.Myers (11-11, 5.52)
Thursday, April 7, 2005 – 1:05PM EST
E. Loaiza (9-12, 3.31) vs. R. Wolf (5-8, 4.28)

Washington Nationals
Jose Guillen; OF – DTD; flu-like symptoms
John Patterson; P – DTD; hip flexor
Tony Armas; P – DTD; strained groin

Philadelphia Phillies
Vicente Padilla; P – 15-Day; right triceps tendinitis
Kenny Lofton; OF – DTD; strained left hamstring
Jim Thome; 1B – DTD; sore back

Dave Mullen's analysis…

The Washington Nationals will travel to Citizens Bank Park to take on the Phillies in their first real game as the Washington Nationals. The Nationals went through a whirlwind this off-season. At first, they knew they were moving to Washington but then funding for a stadium was voted down until finally, Washington, D.C. found the funding and the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals.

In the series and season opener the Nationals will send out work horse Livan Hernandez. Hernandez is coming off of yet another 200+ innings pitched season. He has had 7 consecutive seasons where he has pitched at least 199 2/3 innings or more. Hernandez would have a better record if he had a better team behind him. Along with leading the league in innings pitched last year (255) he led the league in complete games (9) and games started (35). The Phillies will sent out Jon Lieber who was a free agent signing in the off-season. He is coming off of a 14-8 season with the New York Yankees and is expected to lead the Phillies rotation this year.

On Wednesday night, youngsters Brett Myers and Zach Day will take the mound. Myers is expected to have a better season than last because of the change in pitching coaches. He reportedly had run-ins with former pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and has welcomed new pitching coach Rich Dubee. Day only started 19 games because of right shoulder tendinitis that landed him on the 15-day disabled list on July 6th and a broken right finger that shut him down for the season on August 2nd.

In the series finale, Esteban Loaiza will return to the mound after a brief stint in the bullpen last year with the New York Yankees. Southpaw Randy Wolf is coming off of a season in which he was set back by injuries. Wolf, along with Lieber, will need to have big years for this team to have a chance of making the playoffs.

Matt Lombardo's analysis…

The Phillies open the 2005 campaign in historic fashion, hosting the Washington Nationals on their maiden road trip since relocating to Washington, D.C. It is quite fitting that the team hailing from the nation's capital will play its inaugural game in the city where it all began, Philadelphia. The Nationals present some interesting matchups for Philadelphia to contend with and this is sure to be an exciting series to open the season.

There has been little optimism around this Phillies team, a stark contrast to the feelings shared by Phillies faithful one year ago. The front office did little to improve the makeup of this team during the off season, in hopes that addition by subtraction - the losses of starting pitchers Kevin Millwood and Eric Milton - would help catapult this team into postseason play for the first time in eleven seasons. The jury is still out on this theory, and the first step towards realizing a verdict will be taken this week when the curtain finally rises on another season.

Washington D.C. has experienced similar feelings in recent months since being awarded the former Montreal Expos from Major League Baseball. The Nationals lineup is filled with players who have potential as well as veterans who hope to make a final run towards the post season.

Perennial Phillie killers, Brad Wilkerson and Brian Schneider are players to watch in this series. The Nationals are an improved club over last season's Montreal send off, but look to once again struggle to contend in the highly talented NL East.

The series opens with a showcase of Philadelphia's biggest off-season acquisition, Jon Lieber. Lieber will look to improve on his 14-8 record from last season. Pitching in hitter haven, Citizens Bank Park at first glance may be detrimental to his efforts. However, Lieber has proven to be a ground ball pitcher throughout his career, and that should prove to be a catalyst for his season's success. Opposing Lieber on Monday will be Livan Hernandez. The steady right hander has always given the Phillies fits, and with his 3.60 era last season runs may prove to be hard to come by in this one.

In the second matchup, Brett Myers will take the hill opposite of Zach Day. Myers will need to be successful in this game, at the very least to quiet the boo birds who have plenty of ammunition to open this season, thanks in large part Myers' horrendous spring training campaign where his era ballooned to 7.66, not to mention his lack of continued development since making the big leagues three seasons ago. Day is in a similar situation, coming off a year in which he struggled, going 5-10 yet still posting a solid 3.93 era.

The rubber match pits Randy Wolf against Estaban Loiza. Wolf will be looking to rebound from his worst statistical season of his career when he takes the hill to open the 2005 season. Wolf posted career lows in wins, strikeouts and a career high in ERA while going 5-8 and striking out just 88 batters. Loiza, on the other hand is trying to carry momentum over from last season into the inaugural season in Washington. Yes his era was a putrid 5.78, but he managed a 10-7 record and tallied 117 strikeouts. It will be interesting to see how these two pitchers matchup in their first appearances of 2005.

This is a series that the Phillies should win. This marks the club's first opportunity to silence the critics that have plagued the club over the offseason. Look for Jim Thome to feast on the weak pitching the Nationals have to offer, and Pat Burrell should continue on his successful spring in Clearwater. If nothing else, fans should get the chance to see Billy Wagner at least twice in this opening series.

Prediction: The Phillies will come out of the gate strong and take two out of three games from the Washington Nationals.

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