A big series lies ahead

PHOENIX - I'm not one of those guys who calls a game in May a "must-win" or overreacts about a talented team's performance early on in the season.

I'm really not. Trust me. I buy into the whole idea that it's a 162-game season and that there's plenty of time for things to come around, if a team plays well enough.

That said, this three-game series coming up here in Arizona is a big one for the Nationals. And I say that for a couple of reasons.

It's pretty evident that the Nats are scuffling right now. They're without three of their top offensive performers in Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche, three guys who, when healthy, are pretty talented defensively, as well.

Matt Williams is filling out lineups that include Zach Walters, Tyler Moore, Scott Hairston and Kevin Frandsen. No offense to those guys whatsoever, but the Nats certainly didn't expect their lineups to consistently feature that many bench guys at this point in the season.

The Nats just got swept in Oakland, were outscored 21-4 in the three-game set, and only pushed runs across in two of the 28 innings played at O.Co Coliseum.

They're now about to play a bad Diamondbacks team these next three days, a team that has the third-worst record in the majors and owns a 3-15 record at home this season.

Yes, 3-15.

Heading back to D.C. with, say, a 2-4 record on this road trip would be manageable. Flying back east with a 1-5 or 0-6 road trip would be tough to take.

The Nats are trying to regain some swagger right now. They've dropped to 2 1/2 games back of the Braves in the National League East, got pushed around in Oakland, and sit just a game above .500.

Their run-differential on the season is now a minus-three.

They had to deal with an incident yesterday when a frustrated Gio Gonzalez was held back by some coaches in the dugout after appearing to yell at at least one teammate.

This series is a great chance to come in and take advantage of a struggling Diamondbacks team and try and get back on track. Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister will go for the Nats this series. Arizona, meanwhile, has the worst starters' ERA of any team in the majors.

Is the season over if the Nats get swept in Arizona? Of course not. Can this team still get healthy, get hot and play at a high level even if these next three days don't go as they plan? You betcha.

But it would be nice to see things start moving in a positive direction soon, and especially given the competition, these next three days are a good time for that to start.

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