DENVER -- To hear manager Dusty Baker tell it, the Nats' 11 consecutive quality starts are all part of a plan to prepare for pitching at Coors Field.Max Scherzer took the baton on Sunday night and pitched eight innings of three-run ball in a 6-3 win in New York, giving
DENVER -- To hear manager Dusty Baker tell it, the Nats' 11 consecutive quality starts are all part of a plan to prepare for pitching at Coors Field.
Max Scherzer took the baton on Sunday night and pitched eight innings of three-run ball in a 6-3 win in New York, giving Baker a bullpen perfectly primed to handle the challenges that come up in one of baseball's more offense-oriented parks.
"Not only Max going eight innings, [but] the other guys going 6 2/3, 7," Baker said. "What you don't want to happen is to come in here with a tired bullpen and limping. You leave out of here, you often do have a tired bullpen and [are] limping, but you know, we've got to play the Mets without a day off when we get back home."
Baker has an extensive history at Coors Field, most notably during his 10-year tenure with the division-rival Giants and another 10 years with the Cubs and Reds before taking the helm with the Nats.
"You always plan before and after Colorado when you see that on the schedule," Baker said on Monday before the opener of a four-game set at Coors Field. "It's been that way for years, and fortunately for me, I was in this division with them for a long, long time. Quite a few nights I didn't sleep after the game."
A closer look at Baker's experience managing from the visiting dugout in Colorado sheds some light on all those sleepless nights. Heading into this series, he had a 36-56 record at Coors Field, for a .391 winning percentage -- a dramatic dip from his career winning percentage of .531.
The Nationals' bullpen is 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA and five saves in five chances over the 10 games leading up to the series in Colorado. The strong starting pitching -- with a Major League-best 10 games when starters threw seven or more innings, while allowing three earned runs or fewer -- has given Baker the gift of a fully rested bullpen to use as he needs.
"It's easier to put them in the roles where they belong when we don't have to overuse them," he said. "You don't have to go on who's the freshest. You can have the matchups mean something. You know you've got a pretty good chance of being successful. You try and put them in a position where they can succeed. It all starts with starting pitching."
• Bryce Harper and Matt Wieters both had a day off on Monday after a marathon start to the season for each. Harper has started every game, and Wieters has started 15 games behind the dish, going the distance each time.
"Bryce played every day," Baker said. "Wieters is in a grueling position. He'll play tomorrow. He might be out the next day, I might alternate him and [Jose Lobaton]. Then when we get back home, he'll catch that first game, again, hopefully. Depends on when we get back home."
The pace of play hasn't slowed down Harper, who is hitting .400 with seven homers and 20 RBIs, and who was named National League Player of the Week on Monday.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver and covered the Nationals on Friday.