Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jason Marquis makes his Nationals debut tonight against the Phillies.
Jason Marquis takes the mound for his Nats debut, hoping to put together a better performance than John Lannan did on Monday, not to mention a better performance than he put together himself most of the spring.
Marquis struggled through most of the Grapefruit League season -- his final spring numbers included a 9.15 ERA and an astounding 42 baserunners allowed in 20 2/3 innings -- but he did make some strides as March came to a close. Following his second-to-last outing of the spring, he said he was starting to "feel more like Jason Marquis." (You can decide whether that's a good thing or not.)
Marquis has been a pretty consistent performer over his career. As you know, he's won at least 11 games each of the last six years, though that stat has a lot to do with the fact he played for six playoff teams. But even his peripheral numbers have been pretty consistent -- he's basically allowed right around nine hits and three walks per nine innings his entire time in the majors.
The Nationals don't need Marquis to be dominant (though they'd certainly take it). Rather, they need him to consistently give them a chance to win, to churn out at least six innings every time he takes the mound and to set an example for other members of the staff how to go about their business.
Tonight, we get our first indication of his real worth to the club.
We also get a glimpse at a guy whose career has been anything but consistent: Cole Hamels. The Phillies left-hander looked like one of the game's most-dominant young hurlers only two years ago. But he ended 2009 on a really sour note, with many fans wishing Charlie Manuel would have skipped his turn during the World Series.
Hamels is attempting to return to his previous form this season, and the Phillies certainly need him at his best if they have visions of a third straight NL pennant. As good as Roy Halladay will be, and as solid as Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ figure to be, Hamels may be the X-factor for this club. If he's back to 2007-08 form, Philadelphia has a pair of aces at the top of the rotation. If he picks up where he left off in 2009, that rotation suddenly doesn't look nearly as intimidating.
All that makes for some compelling storylines tonight at Nationals Park.