The Washington Nationals won their series with the Colorado Rockies, but they let a winnable game slip away on Thursday night. The inability to pummel mediocre 29-year-old lefty Yohan Flande (career 4.55 ERA, 1.48 WHIP in 535 innings in AAA!) punctuated a disappointing 3-7 trip and dropped the Nats four games behind the Mets in the NL East. With just under a month and a half remaining in the season, the Nats can no longer afford to lose these winnable games. Thankfully, the Nats return home to D.C. to face three opponents in their next nine games that should provide them with a lot of winnable games.
The Nats will begin the homestand against the 52-70 Milwaukee Brewers. Milwaukee has looked better under current skipper Craig Counsell than they did prior to firing Ron Roenicke, but they're still just 45-52 with Counsell at the helm. The Brewers enter the series with the fifth worst starters' ERA in baseball (4.50) and the tenth worst offense in baseball this season in terms of runs scored (479). They shipped off three of their top six position players by fWAR at the deadline as well (Carlos Gomez [1.6), Gerardo Parra [1.2], and Aramis Ramirez [1.0]). Milwaukee has actually been slightly better on the road (24-32) than they have at home (28-38) so far this season, but that's still just a .429 winning percentage on the road.
After Milwaukee leaves town, the Nats will face one of the league's other underachieving teams, the San Diego Padres. While the other two opponents on this homestand have been bad baseball teams in 2015, the Pads have been mediocre. They're currently 59-62, though they've outperformed their -46 run differential by four wins. As of today, the Padres boast the twelfth best starters' ERA in baseball (3.99), though their bullpen has been a bit of an issue this season (3.77, tenth worst in baseball). Despite the additions of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers (injured), Derek Norris, and Justin Upton over the offseason, their offense has been predictably pedestrian (485 runs, 19th in MLB). That actually represents a massive improvement over what we've seen from the San Diego offense in past years, in part due to how Petco Park squashes runs. The Nats won't be facing San Diego in Petco, though, where they took three out of four from San Diego earlier this season. They'll be facing them at home in Nats Park. The Padres have been stronger at home (29-29) than they have on the road (30-33) so far this season.
The Nats will conclude the homestand with three against the Miami Marlins, who check in as the third worst team in baseball right now at 50-71. The Fish have weaknesses all over the place, particularly with star players Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton on the disabled list. Their starters' ERA ranks 20th in baseball at 4.22. Their bullpen has been middle of the road (3.54, 15th). Their offense has produced the seventh least runs in baseball (459). Among players currently on the Marlins' roster, only Justin Bour has flashed double digit home run power. The Marlins have been merely mediocre at home (29-30), but they've been terrible on the road this season. Their 21-41 (.339) road record is the second worst in the majors, just slightly better than the Phillies (19-44). Having the Fish come to town should provide the Nats with an excellent chance to gain ground.
For their part, the Nats have performed quite a bit better at home in 2015. The Nats are 31-23 at Nationals Park with a +17 run differential as opposed to 29-37 with a +2 run differential on the road. Despite having performed poorly since the All Star Break overall (12-21), the Nats have even been OK at home in the second half, going 6-7. The 6-14 road record, including sweeps at the hands of the Mets and Giants (also includes 1-3 series against the Pirates and Dodgers) has been the larger issue. The Nats current nine game homestand starts a stretch where they'll play sixteen of nineteen games at home, a stretch that will conclude with a three game set against the team they're chasing.
Now is the time to make up ground......