PHILADELPHIA - By the time the Nationals return to Washington, playing their next home game at Nationals Park after a nine-game road trip, we'll know a lot more about their standing in the National League East than we do now.
They took three out of four against the world champion San Francisco Giants, yes, but that was against a team struggling almost as mightily at the plate as they are. The nine games they're about to play, starting with Jayson Werth's return to Citizens Bank Park tonight, won't be forgiving.
They'll play the Phillies, Marlins and Braves, the three teams above them in the NL East, facing Cole Hamels tonight and Roy Halladay on Thursday. Then, they'll get Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad and Anibal Sanchez in Florida before three games against the Braves' deep pitching staff.
If the Nationals can win one of those three series, and claim a game in the other two, you'd have to call it a successful road trip. Emotions will likely be running high tonight at Citizens Bank Park with Werth's return, and they'll face a gauntlet of starting pitchers that will test their battered lineup.
Survive this trip, and the Nationals will return home to a softer slate - they'll have three against the Marlins, but then move to a pair against the Pirates before a road trip with the Mets, Orioles and Brewers.
How many games would you be happy with the Nationals winning on this trip? Let me know.