A roller coaster of a road trip followed by a big homestand

Home, sweet home. Finally.

That 10-day road trip felt quite a bit longer, with long flights, three stops and lots of momentum swings for the Nationals along the way.

The Nats went into this trip hoping to go on a bit of a run, get hot and carry some momentum back home into a big week, which features a four-game series against the Braves.

They accomplished part of that goal, starting the road trip by winning back-to-back series against the Padres and Giants, giving them four straight series wins overall.

Led by some tremendous starting pitching (namely by Tanner Roark and Jordan Zimmermann), the Nats took two of three in San Diego. Then, they went into San Francisco to play the team with the best record in baseball and won the first three games of a four-game set, marking the first time in nearly two months that the red-hot Giants had lost three in a row.

Spirits were high, momentum was building and the Nats took over first place in the National League East.

Then came the three-game sweep in St. Louis courtesy of those pesky Cardinals, and the momentum that the Nats had built quickly came to an end.

They finished the road trip with a 5-5 record, and came home last night wondering what could have been if they’d been able to contain Matt Adams and do a little more damage with the bats against Cardinals pitching.

“We have a bitter taste in our mouth going home,” Scott Hairston said. “We definitely played not of our capabilities, we didn’t take advantage of opportunities we had. It was an up-and-down road trip. That’s the way the game goes sometimes.”

“The opportunity was there, certainly,” manager Matt Williams said. “But (the Cardinals) have been playing well. They’ve been pitching well of late. And they shut us down offensively. That’s the way it goes sometimes.

“We looked at this last road trip as an important one. Started off well, but it didn’t end so well. But we’re right there, and we’ll take the off-day and regroup and come back against the Astros and see what we can do.”

This little two-game set against the Astros starting tomorrow night suddenly looks a bit trickier than it did a month ago. Since starting the season an abysmal 11-26, Houston has gone 21-13, and over the last few weeks, the ‘stros have really heated up, going 15-7 in their last 22 games.

Houston sends lefty Dallas Keuchel, who has won six of his last seven starts, to the mound tomorrow. The Nats counter with Roark, and then will have Gio Gonzalez get the ball on Wednesday in his return from the DL, facing right-hander Scott Feldman.

Then the big four-game series with the Braves awaits. After a big road trip that started on a positive note but had a disappointing end, the Nats could use a successful homestand. They’d love to get that momentum jump-started again, and ride it into the All-Star break, which is now less than a month away.

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