Advance scouts help Dusty Baker prepare for unfamiliar opponent

The Nationals have 19 games scheduled each against their four divisional foes. They have already played the Phillies 13 times in the first two months of the season. The have taken on the Braves six times, all on the road. The have faced the Mets six times and battle again June 15-18 in New York. They played the Marlins three times to open the season, but don't face Miami again until June 19-21.

But this week's opponent in interleague play? The Seattle Mariners. A team they have not faced since 2014 and a team that hasn't ventured to Nats Park since 2011.

Manager Dusty Baker said scouting is a tough job for any opponent. But he said it's more difficult facing the Mariners because they never see this club and Seattle is going through a rough season health-wise. The Mariners have 14 players on the disabled list, 10 of whom are pitchers including starters Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.

Dusty-Baker-Nats-jacket-sidebar.jpg"Yeah, it's tough. I mean these guys have had more movement than anybody," Baker noticed. "We try to call upon our advanced scouts, which are very, very, very important - especially during interleague play. You try to see what kind of game that they play: is it a speed game, power game, combination game? Is it short bullpen, long bullpen?"

Baker thought the 126 games Adam Lind played with the Mariners in 2016 might help his new team, the Nationals, prepare. But Baker said that wasn't beneficial intel.

"We called up upon Lind to help us who wasn't much help because there's only three or four guys over there left from when he was there," Baker said. "They've had a tremendous amount of minor league movement up and down. So you call people if they're in that league to give you an idea. It's a dangerous team that when you're playing bunch of kids that you don't know."

The Nationals rolled the Mariners 10-1 in the first game. That was a good start, but Baker said before the first game that this Mariners team reminded him of some of the young players on the Braves.

"As you saw in Atlanta, we didn't know some of those guys," Baker said. "We didn't know (Rio) Ruiz and boom hits a big home run off of Maxie (Scherzer). People (say), 'Hey, how can you get beat by these guys?' It's like a September call-up. I don't like September call-ups because by the time you learn him, you might say keep the ball down and a guy ends up being a low-ball hitter. They are a dangerous team.

"I heard they play more like a National League team than anybody. But then you got the dangerous Robinson Canó, he had to come back this series. One of my favorite hitters. I tell my son to watch Robinson Canó. And Nelly Cruz, he's 40-something homers and then Kyle (Seager). The guys that I know, I've seen on TV. I don't much about their pitching at all."

Baker said that the advance scouting for his club is hugely beneficial to his game day preparation and his strategy for each series. The Nationals advance scouts help with tendencies for the opponent and help Baker as he ventures through a schedule that finds his club coming off a six-game road trip. The breakdowns help him figure out what each opposing manager has at his disposal and what chess pieces he could play during the three-game set.

"I don't really know Scott Servais. He played for me," Baker said. "I don't know how he manages other than what I see in the reports. Scouting is very, very, very important. These are the unsung heroes that tell us what's happening before we see them."

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