Looking for the offense to heat up out west

After going 3-2 on their brief homestand, the Nationals packed the bags and took off for the west coast, where they’ll play 10 games in 10 days.

First is a stop in Los Angeles for three against the Dodgers, who shockingly have started the season 15-21 and are currently last in the National League West.

Yup, the team with the $216 million payroll sits behind the Rockies and Padres nearly a quarter of the way through the season.

You can’t predict ball.

Following their three-game set against Stan Kasten’s boys, the Nats will head to San Diego for four, and then will finish off their west coast swing with a three-game series against the defending World Series champion Giants.

Jordan Zimmermann will take the ball tonight, looking for his fourth consecutive win and seventh victory on the young season. After dropping the last two games to the Cubs, there’s no one else the Nats would rather have on the mound than the guy who has allowed just one earned run over his last 25 innings of work.

The Nationals have turned things around a bit in May, going 7-3 after a sub-.500 April. They’re just a game back of the Braves, who really have seen things flip since their 12-1 start to the season.

The pitching has really improved for the Nats since the calendar turned to May, with Steve McCatty’s hurlers combining to post an impressive 2.33 ERA this month.

The Nats have struck out 72 batters to just 15 walks in May, surrendered only seven homers in 10 games and posted a 1.033 WHIP. Despite yesterday’s struggles by Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano, the bullpen really has been sharp this month, allowing just six earned runs in 23 1/3 innings.

Offensively, however, the Nats are still waiting on things to turn around.

The Nats are batting a collective .231, fourth-worst in the majors. Their on-base percentage is a lowly .293, third-worst in the bigs. They’ve scored just 3.54 runs per game.

This is right around the time last year that we saw the offense start to snap out of an early-season funk and put up some better numbers. After batting just .225 as a team and scoring 3.28 runs per game through their first 25 contests last season, the Nats turned things around in early-to-mid May.

They hit .268 the rest of the way out, scored 4.73 runs per game and reached base at a .326 clip.

While Bryce Harper’s batting average has dipped below .300 for the first time this season, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman have been starting to heat up and Ian Desmond is destroying the ball right now.

Denard Span has been doing a nice job setting the table, and the Nats expect to get Jayson Werth back from a hamstring strain this weekend.

The bench guys have really struggled to this point in the season (more on this later), but Davey Johnson continues to have faith in them.

The weather should heat up for the Nats out west, and we’ll have to see whether their bats can do the same.

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