Getting ready for a much tougher test

The Nationals limited the Marlins to one run in 27 innings over the last four days.

Washington outscored Miami 11-1 and held its division rivals to a .167 batting average.

After three games against a clearly inferior opponent, the Nats will now get much more of a test. Tonight, they open a three-game set against the Reds, a team that won the NL Central by a whopping nine games last season and posted 97 victories overall.

Cincinnati has gotten off to a nice start to the season, taking two of three from the Angels.

The Nats will send Dan Haren, Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg to the mound this series. The Reds will counter with Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto.

How about that for a Sunday afternoon matchup? Strasburg vs. Cueto could be quite a duel.

When watching the Nats push the Marlins around this week, it was hard to tell whether Davey Johnson’s group was playing really solid ball or whether Miami’s lack of talent played more of a factor in the three-game sweep.

There will be no such questions this weekend. If the Nats are to win this series, especially on the road, they’ll have to earn it.

Is this a nice early season test for the Nats? Could this be a series that lets us know where they stand as we get deeper into meaningful games?

The Nats aren’t going there quite yet.

“I don’t know,” Jayson Werth said. “I mean, it’s early. That’s more of a question for like late May.”

This Reds lineup features 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto, plus fellow All-Stars Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips. At the back of the bullpen, Cincinnati has two flame-throwers in Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Broxton.

There’s some talent on this roster.

“Cincy is a great team,” Bryce Harper said. “They got a great lineup, great pitching staff, good bullpen. They are going to be tough, but we’re going to come in there and hopefully pitch well, hit well and play good baseball.

“That’s a good place to play, a good place to hit, so hopefully we can try and go in there and do the same thing we just did.”

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