SAN DIEGO - Before Saturday's game with the Padres, the Nationals took some bold measures to inject some offense into their lineup - they put Jayson Werth in the leadoff spot, and hit John Lannan eighth. And the final result was exactly the same as the night before: they scored two runs.
But for the second straight day, they held the Padres - who might be scuffling worse than they are - to a run, getting an impressive performance from their starting pitcher and shutout work from a bullpen that's had its troubles lately.
And all of a sudden, the Nationals put themselves in position to go 6-5 on a three-city road trip that looked like it could be the downfall of their season. They've got Jordan Zimmermann, probably their best starter, on the mound today, and if they win, they'd come home on a three-game win streak - and their first winning record on a multi-city road trip since 2008 - with Ryan Zimmerman on his way back.
"We've got a chance to get on the winning side of the road trip tomorrow," Werth said. "We've got a big game tomorrow. If we win that game tomorrow, we can really take a step back and say we had a good road trip. I think that's the most important thing - win that game tomorrow, any way we can."
Here are the awards from Saturday night:
John Lannan: The left-hander was sharp for the fourth straight outing, only giving up a run (on Anthony Rizzo's first homer) in 6 1/3 innings. He didn't have his best off-speed stuff, but he pitched out of jams in the fifth and sixth innings by pounding his sinker. I wrote more about Lannan's maturation process here.
Todd Coffey: After Lannan came out of the game, Coffey got a pair of groundouts to end the seventh inning with the lead intact and Jorge Cantu on second. The Nationals have been desperately searching for a bridge to Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning, and Coffey delivered it on Saturday. His pants, however, didn't wear so well in the Nationals' throwback uniforms.
Drew Storen: He got his 14th save on Saturday night, walking one batter but striking out two, throwing two nasty sliders for called strikes to end the game against Chris Denorfia. After getting roughed up early on the road trip in Arizona, Storen is 3-for-3 in save opportunities in the last five games.
Werth: He had a rough night in the leadoff spot, hitting a hard liner to third baseman Chase Headley to open the game. In his next three plate appearances, Werth came up with a man on base, after Brian Bixler had two hits and got hit by a pitch once in the No. 9 spot. He made outs each time, including once when he grounded into a double play.
Michael Morse: He went 0-for-4 on Saturday night, ending a six-game hit streak, and struck out once.
In Case You Missed It:
* The Ryan Ludwick would-be homer that was overturned after review in the fourth inning just barely missed the foul pole in left field at Petco Park. The foul pole is actually a corner of the Western Metal Supply building in left field, and doesn't face home plate squarely. Because of that, watching the way the ball caroms in that corner of the field is the key to the play. I watched the replay a couple times, and it appears the ball actually hit just behind the foul pole. It caromed away from the field, which is what made Jerry Hairston Jr. - who played here last year - so adamant that it was foul. Manager Jim Riggleman said he mainly complained about the call based on Hairston's reaction. And when the homer was overturned, it kept the Nationals ahead. In that way, it's almost like Hairston made a catch to take away a homer.
* Tyler Clippard, pitching the day after recording five or more outs for only the second time this season, gave up a leadoff walk in the eighth. But he came back to strike out two batters and end the inning. Clippard pitched at least 1 2/3 innings for the 12th time this season on Friday night.
* Before Saturday, Werth had 108 plate appearances in 60 games with men on base. He got three on Saturday, courtesy of Bixler's two-hit game (which matched a career high) and his one hit-by-pitch.
1. What did you think of the Nationals' new lineup? Riggleman sounded after the game like he wasn't in love with the idea of batting the pitcher eighth. But it seems likely Werth will hit leadoff in the near future. Let me know how you feel about the arrangement.
2. We talked before the road trip about what would be an acceptable win total for the Nationals, and most of you said you'd be happy with four or five wins in the 11-game swing. How big would it be, then, for the Nationals to get a win today?
Leave your answers in the comments section. I'll have plenty more from Petco Park today - and I'll be getting back behind the camera to shoot a tour of the ballpark, which I'll post in a podcast hopefully tomorrow.