The Nationals began the second half of the season at .500, heading into an important series with the Braves and talking openly about trying to put themselves in the playoff race. Nine games into the second half, they're officially in a skid.
They went 3-6 in their nine-game road trip to open the second half, blowing one four-run lead in Atlanta and another in Los Angeles. And after losing a series to the worst team in baseball in Houston, they dropped another one on Sunday against the previously flailing Dodgers.
After getting four hits in the first inning on Sunday - and only scoring one run - the Nationals couldn't manage another hit the rest of the day. They gave up three runs in the first three innings, as the Dodgers built a rally in part by being able to run on catcher Jesus Flores, and lost 3-1 in Los Angeles.
The loss dropped the Nationals to 49-52 this season - the furthest below .500 they've been since June 16.
They'll come home for a key nine-game intra-division homestand against the Marlins, Mets and Braves starting on Tuesday, but they've still got to figure out how to get more consistency out of an offense that, despite scoring 39 runs in its previous seven games, went completely limp again on Sunday. It also looks like they might be missing Ivan Rodriguez; Flores allowed three stolen bases on Sunday and made a poor throw on Aaron Miles' first-inning single after mishandling a throw at the plate.
With a week to go before the trade deadline, they've got a chance to trade away veteran pitchers like Jason Marquis, who managed six innings on Sunday after allowing three runs in the first three innings, and it looks like they might be as well off planning for their future as anything else.
The first nine games of the second half have certainly done plenty to take the air out of their second half.