SAN DIEGO — There’s really no other way to present the magnitude of a potential winning multi-city road trip than to state the facts: It hasn’t happened for the Nationals in over three years.
With one game left on this 11-game west coast trip, the Nationals have an opportunity to make that stat history. One win over the Padres Sunday afternoon and they go home 6-5 on the trip, a marked improvement over the 5-8 record they posted in the west coast in 2010.
“We’ve got a big game tomorrow,” said right fielder Jayson Werth. “We win that game tomorrow we can really take a step back and say we’ve had a good road trip so I think that’s the most important thing, winning the game tomorrow any way we can.”
The Nationals are set up well to do it. They’re sending right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to the mound against the second-worst offense in the major leagues. Sure, they’re facing right-hander Tim Stauffer on the other end but it’s hard not to like the Nationals chances with Zimmermann on the mound. You’d have to go back to April to find an outing where he didn’t make a quality start and opponents and teammates alike are running out of adjectives to describe how good he’s been this year.
So, if they do win, it could be something of a turning point. From a season that was close to skidding off the rails less than three weeks ago, the Nationals could go 6-5 on the west coast, have won eight of their last 13 and return home to the impending activation of All-Star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
“That’d be a shot in the arm,” Werth said.
Only four games on this trip so far have been decided by two runs or more, the Nationals have continued to scuffle offensively but have been able to scratch out wins by virtue of a pitching staff that has allowed one earned run or less in eight of their last 12 games and a defense that has yet to commit an error on the trip.
It may be an affront to some to take losing almost half the games on a trip as some sign of success, but for a Nationals team that was so close to the bottom just weeks ago, it’d be a significant step.
“You don’t want to be one game over,” said shortstop Ian Desmond. “You want to be three games up, win each series and go home and play good baseball there. Obviously, we’ll take it right now. We’ll take everything we can get without the lineup that we normally have.
“We’ll accept it but I don’t think it’s where we wanted to be.”
– Two other postgame notes: Roger Bernadina, who was scratched with tightness in his left hamstring just before Saturday’s game, is hopeful he’ll be able to play on Sunday. He said the hamstring has been nagging him on and off for some time but he felt it tighten up a few times Saturday afternoon when shagging fly balls during batting practice.
Desmond, who’s been battling a sore left hip for a few weeks, may be out of the lineup on Sunday as well. Desmond has proven to be a very good baserunner for the Nationals this season but Friday evening he looked slower than usual on a stolen base attempt and was caught. Saturday he slowed up a little coming home on an RBI-double by Danny Espinosa. Desmond is not one to make excuses but the Nationals can ill-afford to lose any more of their starting lineup so the idea is most likely to give him a day off now — piggy backed on an off day — and let him take the extra time to rest.