When the Nationals landed in Milwaukee at 6:00 p.m. Central Time Thursday evening, serious storms were blowing in. A minute before landing, the chartered jet took a hit from turbulent air and dipped suddenly, only to recover and land safely. Once out of the plane and on our short walk to the buses, we marveled at eerie black and gray skies that were about to unleash some severe weather on southeast Wisconsin.
The team just made it into the hotel when the rains really hit hard, and we were safe and dry to enjoy an evening off after two straight wins in Cincinnati against the NL Central-contending Reds.
As written in previous blogs, life on the road in baseball this year is still rough, and this trip has been no exception. This 10-game journey to Florida, Cincinnati and Milwaukee is, in my opinion, crucial to what kind of second half the Nationals will have.
The road trip got off to a great start as Stephen Strasburg won the opener at Florida in a combined 4-0 shutout with the bullpen. But, the Nats' bats went silent as they were then shutout Saturday and Sunday.
When the Reds won the first two of the next series, it was a 1-4 trip and the Nats were a season-worst 14 games under .500. The bats were still quiet, and then something interesting happened Tuesday night - a 2-hour and 40-minute rain delay in the fifth inning with Washington trailing 5-1. After the rain, Cincinnati scored three more and it appeared to be another blowout loss.
Suddenly, the Nats scored six in the sixth, started by a Ryan Zimmerman opposite field homer and featuring a Michael Morse three-run triple. The Reds won 8-7, but something changed in the bat rack that would help the Nationals get a split of the series.
Wednesday brought Strasburg again; he did his job in nearly six innings of work and the offense scored eight runs on nine hits to win by three. Thursday, Livan Hernandez was brilliant in a complete game seven-hitter and the bats boomed out 7 more runs on 10 hits.
Suddenly, a horrible trip turned much brighter and it was on to Milwaukee.
The Reds lead the National League in batting average and runs, and the Brewers are the home run leaders, so the pitching will have to be good against the bats of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks. The Nats should score runs against the Brewers' beleaguered pitching staff, so there could be serious fireworks this weekend.
It will be great to get in front of our fans on Tuesday the 27th, but the homestand will be a challenge against the first-place Braves and slugging Phillies. Tough teams with good offenses have greeted the Nats out of the All-Star Break, and hopefully, there's starting pitching help on the way soon.
Until then, from Wisconsin, "Have a great weekend, eh?"