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Washington Nationals return home 5.5 games out; 11-14 overall after 4-5 trip...

The Nationals’ road trip through New York, LA, and San Francisco started and ended on high notes, but there were some struggles in-between...

MLB: Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

A bullpen blowup late in the finale in Citi Field cost Davey Martinez’s Nationals a chance at a three-game sweep of the New York Mets. Washington played in three tight games against the Dodgers in LA but lost two of three in Dodger Stadium. Then the Nationals dropped two of three in San Francisco, though their 15-2 win over the Giants in the series finale in AT&T Park sent them home on a high note in spite of their 4-5 overall record on the trip.

“I worry about today,” Martinez said when asked for his overall thoughts on the nine-game, three-city journey after Wednesday’s series-salvaging win.

“It was a good day. We go on a long flight, go home, have a day off, root for the Caps, and then we’ll come back Friday.”

The Nationals’ bats finally woke up on Wednesday after struggling to score runs as they lost four of the previous six, connecting for 18 hits total, going 7 for 19 with RISP, and scoring 14 of 15 runs on two-out hits.

What was different in the third of three with the Giants? And what was behind all the two-out hits?

“We saw more balls up the middle of the field, which we preach all the time, especially with two outs and two strikes, stay in the middle of the field, and they did that today, and it was good,” Martinez said.

Now the Nats head home 11-14 on the season, 5.5 games out in the NL East, with ten games in Washington, D.C. against Arizona’s Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh’s Pirates, and Philadelphia’s Phillies.

Washington Nationals  v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies early Wednesday morning about doing what they can to stay afloat in the division as they try to get all their injured players back in the lineup.

“The injuries, we don’t even talk about the injuries,” Rizzo said.

“The injuries happen. Every team’s got injuries. These guys are big leaguers, and they’ve got to perform. Obviously you’ve three All-Star-caliber players that are not in the lineup with [Adam] Eaton, [Anthony] Rendon, and [Daniel] Murphy, so obviously that’s going to hurt.

“You’ve got a really good extra player in Brian Goodwin — who would be playing every day now with Eaton out — who is hurt, and then you go down and Robles, Victor, would be — he’d be playing left field every day if he were healthy and he’s hurt.

“It really tests the depth in your organization, your talent-level, and that type of thing, but hey, you’ve got to win games.”

“There’s nobody feeling sorry for us because we’ve got guys out, you’ve got to grind out, and you’ve got to win,” Rizzo continued, and when you’re already playing with a depleted lineup, you have to play clean baseball, run the bases well, and avoid giving the opposing teams extra outs.

“Often when your really good players and your regulars are not in the lineup and they’re hurt ... you’ve got to really play clean baseball, and the baserunning mistakes, and the defensive mistakes, throwing to the wrong base, and those type of things, giving extra outs, running into extra outs, they really are magnified when your lineup is depleted and you’re not scoring runs, and it’s easy to make a baserunning mistake when your lineup is hitting on all cylinders and you’re scoring seven, eight runs a game, and that type of thing, but when you’re scratching for three, four runs a game, you’ve got to play clean baseball and we haven’t done it.”

The result of the way they’ve played at times early this season?

The Nationals are in fourth place in the division, behind the NL East-leading New York Mets (15-7), the Phillies (15-8, 0.5 back), and Atlanta’s Braves (13-10, 2.5).

“We [looked] at our division before the season,” Rizzo said.

“We realized that there was going to be improvement in all of the teams in our division, including the Mets, who finally get their rotation healthy, and their lineup has been intact and playing pretty well. The division is solid, it’s going to get solid, it’s going to stay solid, it’s going to be a good division for a long time, and right now we’re wearing the crown, we’re the kings, and everyone is trying to knock us off the throne, and we’ve just got to battle to win the division, play better baseball, and I think at the end of the day, we’re the best team, and we feel good about winning the division again.”

No one ever said it was going to be easy... except maybe just about everyone who wrote a preview of the NL East for 2018.

But Rizzo said the Nats weren’t taking anything for granted after winning back-to-back titles and four division crowns in the last six seasons.

“We look at the rest of our division and those guys haven’t had too many setbacks injury-wise and we think this thing all evens out,” Rizzo said. “We feel confident about what we’re doing, we love the team that we have, the guys are in a good mood still, although they’re pissed off that we’re not having the road trip that we want.”