The Nationals have made a whole bunch of changes in the last 24 hours, and they may or may not have resulted in their first walkoff win of the season on Tuesday night. All of this got me looking at the Nationals schedule of the fairly recent past and the fairly recent future. With the smart moves yesterday, that were long overdue, the Nationals might be moving into the best part of their season, which makes the moves even more logical.
In the last five and a half weeks, the Nationals have had a rough go of just about everything. They've lost 22 of their last 33 games, which is never the way a division, league, and even World Series contender should look. You can blame lots of factors here, whether it's the injuries, the offensive trials and tribulations, or the sub-par bullpen. Fact of the matter is, while those problems are legitimate, there are other factors involved that, logically, will turn around going forward.
I'm going past the general statistical anomalies that the Nats have experienced, with relatively low offensive luck, and injuries. May is when many of the concerns about the team really started to surface, which is quite clearly part of why the changes were made yesterday afternoon. However, in that month, the Nationals played 18 games on the road versus just 10 games at home. That's about 64% of their games on the road. Despite that, they still finished two games above the .500 mark for the month at 15-13.
What's even better for Nats fans, if you look forward to June and July, there are other factors that are reason for encouragement. In June they play 13 games at home and 14 on the road, but the competition is far more friendly to the Nats than any stretch in the previous two months. They face the Mets, Twins, Rockies and Diamondbacks at home. The Diamondbacks were my pick to win the NL West this year, and they lead that division now, and the Rockies are better than expected, but the Mets and Twins are prime for some beatdowns by this team.
Looking at the road schedule, they go to Colorado, which should vastly favor the Nats pitching staff, even if the Rockies have a .600 winning percentage at home. They head to Cleveland to face a team who has the fourth worst ERA in the AL, and despite a pretty potent offense, I will take the Nats' pitching against the Indians' offense almost any day. The Nats also face the struggling Phillies and the Mets again, this time on the road. This is a really good stretch for the Nats.
In July, things get better for the Nats. First, they get four days off for the All-Star Break, which can only benefit a team that has been unreasonably battered during the early part of the year. For the first 14 games of that month, split evenly between home and away, the Nationals don't face a team that currently has a record better than .500. After the break, they are at home for 10 straight games in which they face just one team, Pittsburgh for four games, who has an above .500 record. This might be the Nationals most favorable month for the rest of the season.
This post was a long way of saying what we said on our Nats Talk On The Go podcast earlier this season and reiterated last week. The first two months were really hard, and yet, the Nats still finished above .500. They've made some necessary roster changes, and I truly believe that last night's walkoff could be the turn around moment for this season. Now, re-read the last few paragraphs as a friendly reminder that everything's going to be just fine.