Thoughts from the four-game Arizona series, a split that left the Nationals at 19-38 (.333 ball) on the road this year:
The Diamondbacks have to be one of the strangest offensive teams in baseball, going into the series ranked 12th in the NL in batting average, fifth in runs, third in home runs and eighth in stolen bases. But, they make less contact than any other team in baseball. After the Nats got through with them Thursday night, they had struck out 1,006 times in 109 games!
The next closest team was the Marlins at 865 heading into Thursday's games, and most clubs are under 800. This Arizona team is on pace to strike out more than 1,500 times - unheard of!
Imagine the numbers the Nationals would put up at Chase Field. They hit 10 HRs in the series and have reached 100 for the season. Of course, nine of the ten were solo shots. Hitters see the ball well there and when it's 111 degrees outside like it was at game time Thursday, the ball will really carry, even though it's 79 inside the stadium with the roof closed.
A ballclub needs a good pitching staff to succeed in there, and the Diamondbacks entered Thursday's game with a Major League-worst 5.22 ERA. Any pitching staff without veterans who know how to pitch would be in deep trouble in there.
Thursday's series finale was the reason for my headline above. Just when the Nats had not made an error in the first three games of the series and turned four double plays, they imploded by making three and allowing four unearned runs in the 8-4 loss.
The Marlins had surpassed the Nats in errors and the Cubs had pulled even, but game four of that series was a bad step back to the futility of May and June. Let's hope it was a one-game aberration.
Road series wins are rare and hard to attain for the Nationals. They still haven't won a road series since May in New York, but have split two four-gamers recently in Cincinnati and Arizona. Against the Reds, they had to win the last two to split, but versus the D'backs they had a chance to take three of four before Thursday's meltdown.
Jason Marquis was in the clubhouse in Phoenix; Stephen Strasburg threw with no discomfort in his simulated game Thursday; Nyjer Morgan went on the DL because of his hip; and the name Kevin Mench was on the rooming list when the Nationals checked into their Los Angeles hotel in the wee hours Friday morning.
Changes are afoot, reinforcements are on the way and this club may have a dramatically different look one week from now. That's good news and another step in the right direction that all of us want to see for our Nats.