After a befuddling 2-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs and a series loss to a team with one of the worst records in baseball, the Nationals packed their bags in the clubhouse. The mood was generally upbeat although there was clear frustration that a win in their grasps slipped away, and in such head-scratching fashion. There may be no better cure for that than the next two opponents on a 10-game West Coast trip and emerging ace Jordan Zimmermann on the mound on Monday.
The Nationals head to California for their sole West Coast swing of the season, in the midst of a stretch in which they play 20 games over the next 21 days. They face the disappointing Los Angeles Dodgers first in a three-game series, then spend four games in San Diego and capped by three games against the defending champion San Francisco before returning home. The combined records of all three teams is a measly 54-57, buoyed by the strong 23-15 start by the Giants. The combined run differential of the three California NL teams is a paltry minus-33, pulled down by the horrid offensive starts of the Dodgers and Padres. Zimmermann (6-1, 1.59 ERA) squares off against Josh Beckett (0-4, 5.13 ERA), an easy way to snap a two-game skid.
The Nationals finished their brief home stand at 3-2, continuing the upward climb in May after a middling April. After seven wins in their past 10 games, the Nationals moved to 20-17 and only one game behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East standings and four games ahead of the next-best Philadelphia Phillies. Through most of the past week, the offense was more consistent and the defense, too.