Heading west

I’m sitting at Dulles International right now, waiting for a flight to San Francisco, where the Nationals begin a 10-game road trip tonight with a 10:05 game against the Giants.

If the Nationals go 5-5 on this road trip, I think you’d have to be happy. And a number of those wins might not come until the last four days of the trip in Houston.

Washington’s offense, missing catcher Ivan Rodriguez for the entire trip, will get a formidable test in the first two legs of the trip. The Nationals will see two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum on Wednesday night, and get resurgent former All-Star Barry Zito on Thursday. In San Diego, they’ll play in one of the majors’ toughest parks for hitters and face the surprising NL West leaders, who have crafted a 26-18 record behind free agent Jon Garland and young pitchers like Clayton Richad and Mat Latos. It’s only in Houston where they’ll catch a reprieve against what might be the National League’s worst team.

By the time the Nationals return home, they’ll have played 19 of their last 24 games on the road. They do figure to get a sizable boost, though, in the form of Stephen Strasburg, who could make his big-league debut as soon as Saturday in San Diego, but more likely next Friday against the Reds at Nationals Park.

I’ll have plenty more this afternoon once I land in San Francisco.