After Chad Billingsley dominated the Nats on Sunday and the Dodgers beat the Nationals 3-1 to end a 3-6 nine-game road trip, Washington's manager Davey Johnson told reporters the swing through Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles, "... could have been a good road trip," but, "it turns out to be a sub-par road trip." Asked if he expected more for his team from the second and third stops of the trip against the Astros and Dodgers, the NL Central's worst and West's second-worst teams, respectively, Johnson said, "No question about it. I had high hopes coming out, and I know a lot of the guys did. We're just not getting it done. I know the effort's there, but we just didn't swing the bats when we needed to. We'll get it right, go home, get a little home cooking. We'll be fine."
The Nationals are now 9-14 under Johnson's guidance. After beating Colorado in the last game of an eleven-game homestand on July 10th to stop a three-game losing streak in the final game of their series with the Rockies, the Nats were 46-46. They return home, were they won six of eleven during the pre-All-Star stand and are 28-18 on the season, with a 21-34 road record and a 49-52 record overall having dropped three games below .500 for the first time since June 16th.
The Nats' Skipper told reporters he's looking forward to getting back home and the challenge of facing the Marlins, Mets and Braves over the next nine games in the nation's capital. "I see we're primed to start a run," Johnson said.
The run the Nats went on in June when they finished above .500 for the month for the first time this season at 17-10, was the sort of run they've been waiting for all year, but those 17 wins included an eight-game win-streak (the season's longest) and a stretch of ten wins in eleven games in which the Nats won five of five one-run games. The Nationals are 18-22 overall on the season in one-run games following that stretch and four of their six losses on the just-completed trip came in one-run games. Ian Desmond told reporters after the trip-ending loss in LA that he thought, "the energy is down," as Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak quoted the Nats' shortstop saying in an article entitled, "Nationals’ fast start brings false hope in L.A." "We’re not playing the same brand of baseball that we were when came out of the gates," Desmond continued.
Could it be because so many of the Nationals (including Desmond, Jason Marquis, Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey, etc.) are unsure where they'll be next week? Sure. Could it be because the streak of games in June that got them back close to being a .500 team was an anomalous stretch which unrealistically raised expectations of what the Nats are as a team this season? SI.com's Jon Heyman wrote his morning, in discussing the market for B.J. Upton in an article entitled, "Giants may be favorites for Beltran, plus more trade week updates", that the Nats were, "an odd and unlikely suitor because they are a non-contender, but they are desperate for a centerfielder and Nats GM Mike Rizzo (who signed B.J.'s younger brother Justin for the Diamondbacks) is a friend of the family."
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, however, seems to think, as he wrote today in an article entitled, "Daily Rumble: The Carlos Beltran market" that the focus on Upton may have shifted from Washington to San Francisco:
"The Nationals continue to hover. But there are indications they've balked at dealing two pitchers the Rays are believed to have asked about: Ross Detwiler and the much-coveted Brad Peacock. So other clubs now say the team to watch is the Giants."
Just how badly does D.C. GM Mike Rizzo want that center fielder/leadoff man? Peacock's stock couldn't be higher now after a breakout year and a dominant All-Star Futures Game appearance. Detwiler? A lot of people in NatsTown may have given up on the left-hander, but the Nats apparently have not. Are the Nationals a leadoff man and strong defensive center fielder away from competing? No, but it's one need they could check off their list over the next few years if they get a young, affordable player out there between Jayson Werth and (eventually) Bryce Harper. Five days to the deadline...