After day off, Nationals now face longest stretch with no break

OAKLAND - Dusty Baker knows the potential perils of pitfalls of a long West Coast trip. Between the time change, the nice weather and other distractions, it's easy for a previously rolling East Coast club to head out this way and get thrown off track.

"This is a business trip, and a lot of times this can turn into a pleasure trip," Baker said Monday morning before his Nationals opened a three-game series with the Giants, the first leg of a three-city trip that stops in Oakland this weekend and then concludes in Los Angeles next week.

So far, so good, because it's been all business.

The Nationals swept San Francisco, getting some big hits from Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy, dominant pitching performances from Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark, and lockdown relief from Koda Glover and Matt Albers.

Baker-Maddux-Speier-Sidebar.jpgPerhaps the Giants are a team in a trouble, with an injury-riddled and weak lineup. But a series sweep of any team, especially out west, is no insignificant achievement.

"That helps," Baker said. "We're still not out of the West Coast. You've got to just keep plugging, each day at a time. You can't rest on your laurels, because this trip ... the powers that be, and you know how baseball is, they can turn on you pretty quickly. You can't gloat about what you've done. You're happy about it, but you realize you've got to keep grinding."

The Nationals will attempt to keep grinding tonight in Oakland. They did get to enjoy an off-day Thursday, and a group of players made the most of that opportunity by attending Game 1 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena (right next door to O.Co Coliseum).

Baker? Despite the fact his wife and son went to the basketball game, the veteran manager took his off-day opportunity to enjoy another favorite pastime: fishing.

The Nationals won't get any more opportunities like that for a while. Beginning tonight, they are scheduled to play 20 consecutive days, having lost an off-day after this trip so they can make up a rainout against the Orioles.

Then they've got another stretch of 17 consecutive games, meaning they are now scheduled to play 37 of the next 38 days heading into the All-Star break.

Pleasure time is over. The business trip is starting again.

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