The roller coaster stops...where?

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Up and down go the Nationals, from suffering a sweep at home to the Cubs, to winning a scintillating 3 out of 4 from the Cardinals, to losing 2 out of 3 at Florida. Now it's on to Pittsburgh, and the Nats need to win a road series, something they haven't done since May in New York.

Try to figure out the game of baseball and it will have you scratching your head. Chicago came to our nation's capital 23 games under .500 and with the National League's fourth-worst ERA. All they did was beat Washington 9-1, 5-4 and 4-0, limiting the Nats to 5 runs on 14 hits. It's the second straight year the Cubs have swept the Nats at Nationals Park, and '09 was a four-gamer in Jim Riggleman's debut as manager.

So, the offense is in a slump, right? And the NL's second-best pitching staff, St. Louis, is coming to town with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright starting the first and fourth games. No chance to hit against these guys, right?

Wrong!

Carpenter gets a no-decision in game 1 and the Nats win 11-10 in 13 innings - a 4 hour and 35 minute marathon that produces 30 hits (16 by Washington - more than in the entire Cubs series!).

Cardinals rookie Jaime Garcia acts like a veteran in beating the Nationals 4-2 in game 2, though Washington collects 12 hits but strands 14 runners. Suddenly, the offense is cooking.

Our ballclub takes batting practice against Kyle Lohse and three other STL pitchers in game three, and Livan Hernandez benefits from a ton of run support in a 14-5 win that features 16 hits, 6 of them for extra bases and home runs by Adam Dunn and Roger Bernadina.

Game 4 is a beauty as John Lannan outduels Wainwright and hits a two-run double, the first multi-RBI game of his career. Michael Morse, at the tail end of getting 7 straight hits, homers and Washington takes it 4-2 for their most impressive home series of the year against a talented club fighting for a playoff spot.

The tally in 4 games: 31 runs on 52 hits, 5 home runs and Pat Listach working out that right-arm windmill as he waves runner after runner home from his third-base coaching box.

Then it was on to Florida, with the Nats getting shut out in between two other games when they scored 9 and 10 runs. And speaking of fighting, Wednesday night's scrap with the Marlins will hopefully further bond this team together as they stick up for each other and battle right down until the end in New York on October 3.

The Pirates are beatable; the Nationals are 3 wins away from surpassing 2009 and 2010's totals, so there is progress as we watch the youngsters mix with the veterans and give us hope for the future.

Just don't try and figure out what's going to happen next, or you'll end up shaking your head like I have been for the last week and a half.

Isn't baseball great?