Dave Nichols: History not kind to Nats on West Coast trips

The Washington Nationals’ 6-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks kicks off an 11-game West Coast road trip that will see them visit San Francisco and San Diego as well. It’s a brutal trip, not as much for the quality of competition - though that’s tough enough - but just for the nature of the trip. Imagine how you’d feel waking up in a different city every third day for almost two weeks, four time zones from home.

History hasn’t been all that kind to the Nats on these extended west coast trips. In 2010, they went 3-7 on a trip to San Francisco, San Diego and Houston that was really the beginning of the end for them record-wise. They left after beating Baltimore 4-3 in 10 innings May 23 with a record of 23-22, good for third place in the National League East. They limped home after losing three straight in Houston at 26-29, last in the division, never to see .500 again.

The 2009 trip wasn’t so bad, breaking even at 4-4 with Los Angeles, Arizona and San Francisco, but the toll of the trip was so bad that upon returning home they lost their next seven games and nine out of 12. Later that summer, they went 2-7 on a trip that went through Chicago, St. Louis and San Diego, losing all three at Petco Park.

The Nationals had another nine-game trip in 2008 where they went 2-7. They actually took two out of three against Atlanta to start the trip, then lost six straight to the Giants and Dodgers. They then got swept by Philadelphia when they returned home for good measure. In 2007, their long road trip was in mid-August, when they visited Houston, Colorado and Los Angeles. Again, they won three of the first four before losing the last six games, a 3-7 trip.

The results were just as bad in 2006. A nine-game trip to L.A., San Fran and San Diego saw them lose six of the nine games. In fact, we have to go all the way back to the first half of 2005, when the Nationals played their best baseball since moving to the Nation’s Capital from Montreal, to find a winning west coast road trip. That year, the Nats went 5-4 against the Dodgers, Giants and Diamondbacks from May 2-11, providing the impetus to leading the division for a month that summer, giving D.C. baseball fans hope for a title after being without baseball for 31 years.

The Nats have their hands full on this trip. The Giants and D-backs are fighting it out at the top of the Western Division and the Padres have a tough pitching staff and play in a park that stifles offenses. They got off to a good start with last night’s win, but history shows these trips can be real difficult on east coast teams taking extended trips out west. With the team starting to hit a little better, it will be interesting to see if the Nats can ride the momentum of the modest three-game winning streak they’ve built, or if the toll of travel will once again knock them back.

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