Max Scherzer wasn't sharp against the Miami Marlins in the series finale in South Florida on Thursday afternoon, but the Washington Nationals' 31-year-old right-hander managed to make it through five innings on the hill in Marlins Park, sparing the bullpen another long game a night after Joe Ross went just two innings before a blister forced him from the mound.
"We had a couple guys that weren't available today, or we tried to stay away from some guys today," Dusty Baker explained after the 5-1 loss to the Fish.
"So we'll go back home, we've got three days to push it against Minnesota and then we have an off day. It was kind of a flat day. I don't know if it was us or if it was them, but it was kind of a flat day."
The Nationals wrapped up their trip to Philadelphia and Miami 4-3, leaving them 6-3 away from D.C. early this season.
"We won two out of three in Philly and we split here. We would have liked to have gone 3 out of 4 here and [won] this series but four-game series are really tough and so it was a decent road trip, I'll say that.
"Could have been worse, that's what decent is, and could have been better."
"This is our first really long road trip -- not really long, but it's preparing us for the long road trip, so like I said, we've just got to go home and regroup now and come out swinging against Minnesota," Baker told reporters.
After three games with the Twins this weekend and three with the Phillies next week, the Nationals will embark on a long trip to St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago that will provide a significant early-season test.
Baker talked earlier this month about the importance of getting off to a strong start, which they've managed to with an 11-4 record through fifteen games, all of them against their divisional rivals.
"That's big," Baker said before the Nationals' win over the Atlanta Braves last Monday.
"You can either get off to a good start or get off to a terrible start. You need to win those games. This is the epitome of 'Games you win in April you don't have to win in August and September.'
"That's the epitome of it. And because when you jump out if you have a lead then you're not playing head-to-head or in your division and it's a lot harder to gain ground on somebody than when you start playing everybody in the same division and you can gain ground every day. You're going to gain on somebody because we're all playing each other.
"I looked at the schedule. I'd like to win as many of these games as possible, because you look at next month, we've got 20 in a row at one time and we're playing the Cardinals, the Royals, the Mets, the Cubs, you're playing some big time quality teams and a lot of them you're playing on the road."
It's actually on 16 in a row starting with next week's series against the Phillies, but you get Baker's point.
The Nationals took eleven of the first fifteen games with their NL East rivals, but they should, on paper, be beating the Braves, Marlins and Phillies.
Washington got off to a good start on the road this season after struggling away from the nation's capital in 2015, finishing the year at 37-44.
The Nationals are 5-1 thus far at home, after going 46-35 in Nats Park last season. The next six games could set them up nicely before they head out on the road to face teams that figure to be more difficult opponents than what they have faced thus far.
Up first, three games with the Twins, who come to D.C. with a 5-11 record overall and a 1-7 mark on the road...