Was Dodgers series a blip or a sign of worse things to come?

As he sat at a dais next to Juan Soto and Kyle Schwarber, his fellow 2021 All-Stars, Trea Turner was asked about the Nationals’ four-game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers.

Turner, of course, didn’t appear in any of the four games, still dealing with a jammed left middle finger from sliding hard into third base while completing his third career cycle Wednesday afternoon. And he was far from the only Nats regular stuck watching from the dugout. Also out due to injury were Schwarber, Alex Avila, Jordy Mercer, Stephen Strasburg, Erick Fedde, Daniel Hudson, Tanner Rainey, Kyle Finnegan, Andrew Stevenson and more.

And so the pertinent question Turner (and everyone else associated with this team) had to ask himself was whether this 0-4 weekend series was a sign of things to come or merely a really bad weekend that was a byproduct of a severely depleted roster.

“We hit a little rough patch here,” Turner said in his Zoom session with reporters. “That’s part of just running into a really good team. It’s part of a lot of injuries at the same time, which is kind of unfortunate. So we hit a little bit of a speed bump. But hopefully we can get a lot of guys back and get back to where we were.”

Turner-Dives-into-3B-Triple-Cycle-Sidebar.jpgThe Nationals will need to do that quickly, because there’s no rest at all for the weary.

After completing Saturday night’s rain-delayed loss at 12:22 a.m. Sunday, they were back on the field Monday at 11:05 a.m. for the series finale. Then after losing their fourth straight, they packed their bags and rode the team bus to Dulles International Airport, where a cross-country flight to San Diego awaited.

Now it’s four late-night games against the Padres, followed by three games against the Giants in San Francisco, on the docket. That will complete a stretch of 20 games in 20 days for the Nationals heading into the All-Star break.

It was going to be a daunting stretch even if the roster was healthy throughout. That hasn’t been the case, with a spate of injuries to prominent players forcing manager Davey Martinez to fill out lineup cards that include the likes of Yadiel Hernandez, Alcides Escobar and Tres Barrera and summon such unproven relievers as Austin Voth, Sam Clay and Andres Machado for high-leverage spots.

At last, though, help could be on the way.

Stevenson, out since June 17 with an oblique strain, began a rehab assignment for Triple-A Rochester on Sunday, going 1-for-3. Another day or two with the Red Wings should suffice, and then the Nationals are likely to activate the outfielder off the 10-day injured list sometime during this West Coast trip.

Turner, who has missed four straight games, may need to miss a few more. But Martinez seemed confident an IL stint was not necessary, and that his All-Star shortstop would be activated by midweek at the latest.

Finnegan, out since June 21 with a hamstring strain, threw a simulated game Sunday morning at Nationals Park. It’s possible that’s all the reliever will need before he’s deemed ready to be activated.

And Hudson has made good progress in his return from right elbow inflammation, now throwing off the mound without issues. Because he’s been out since June 10, the veteran setup man may have to go on a short rehab assignment before coming off the IL, but he certainly seems to be moving in the right direction.

A healthier Nationals club will have a better chance of beating the Padres and Giants, but they’re still going to be depleted and they’re still going to be facing a couple of the best teams the National League has to offer.

Somehow, the Nats have to hold their own this stretch, go into the All-Star break hovering near the .500 mark and hope they can take advantage of an easier schedule and a healthier roster during the season’s second half.

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