At the end of the Nationals’ longest road trip of the year, in a 10-game stretch where they’ve had to overcome all manner of self-inflicted wounds, they played a game that distilled all of their issues away from Nationals Park into a three-hour cocktail.
Their 8-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, which closed a sweep at Miller Park and sent the Nationals home with their seventh loss in 10 games, had it all: two errors that led to five unearned runs, an abbreviated outing from their starter and an offense that couldn’t surge back into the game when they fell behind early.
For whatever reason, the Nationals have had those problems to a greater degree all season on the road than they have at home. It’s why they’re 17-36 on the road and have been outscored by 42 runs, when they’re four games above .500 at home. Where they’ve been scrappy enough to overcome their flaws at home, they’ve come nowhere near doing that on a consistent basis on the road.
Ross Detwiler, making his first big-league appearance since last September, became the latest Nationals starter to exit early. The Nationals had planned for him to pitch four or five innings, since he was coming to the majors after pitching seven innings on Wednesday at Double-A Harrisburg. But Detwiler lasted just 3 2/3 innings, throwing 44 pitches in the first inning and giving up a total of five runs, though none of them were earned. His curveball, which was superb in the second and third innings, deserted him in the first, and Detwiler couldn’t close out innings after Willie Harris’ error in the first and Ian Desmond’s in the fourth.
Things will presumably get better when the Nationals next play on Tuesday; they’ll be back at home, with Stephen Strasburg on the mound. But they’ve got 28 games left this year on the road, where the losses continue to pile up and their issues continue to crop up. Until that’s fixed, the amount of forward momentum the Nationals can generate is minimal.