The Nationals rolled back into town after sweeping six in a row on the road. With the Yankees arriving just as hot, there was anticipation the Nats had a chance to make a statement.
This statement would not just be to the mid-Atlantic region, but to the nation, if they could compete and beat the team that usually sets the tone for all of Major League Baseball.
The Nationals competed for sure, but came up short, scoring just six runs in the series and falling in all three games.
Panic time? Hardly. Give up on the season? No way.
The Nats have had trouble against the Yankees and Dodgers, a pair of first place teams. The Nats are 38-20 against everybody else. But baseball isn’t top-heavy this year, and very few teams have the starting pitching the Nationals can boast.
“Well, we got some work to do,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “It was a tough series, but we got outplayed, and we got beat.”
The Nationals learned they are close, but they also knew they would have to score some more runs to win, which goes for any series the rest of the year.
“When we are scoring low runs, everything little thing is a big issue, especially against a good hitting ballclub,” said manager Davey Johnson. “There is no let-up in their lineup. Every little boot or passed ball, you pay for. You can get by when you are running on all cylinders. Your offense is churning, then you can pass it by.”
But maybe part of the problem was the opponent; it was the Yankees. Johnson knows they have to play Tampa Bay next, and then it is off for another showdown at Camden Yards, a place Johnson has experience coaching at in big games.
“We have held our own with the American League East,” Johnson said. “We can go to Baltimore. It is a good place to start swinging the bats good. I know it pretty well. I think we match up good with anybody. We just got to do what we are capable of doing.”
The Nationals won’t let this sweep get to their heads, just like the back-to-back road sweeps over Boston and Toronto won’t have them jumping for joy.
“I think it was a great experience for the ballclub,” Johnson concluded. “(It was) a full house, playing the Yankees. That is a good way to get a quick education.”
Sure they went 0-3 over the weekend. But 6-3 the past nine games? That is still two out of three on average per series. And that is just where they want to be. They just need their hitting to play catch-up with the pitching.
And we knew that going in, now didn’t we?