Take a deep breath: just two left on the West Coast

by Andrew Bailey

Amid a sea of seemingly bad news, here’s the good: the Nationals just have two games left against the Giants in San Francisco before finally — and perhaps mercifully — this nine game West Coast swing comes to an end.

After losing a three game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers and splitting a four game tilt against the San Diego Padres, the Nationals dropped last night’s series opener against the defending World Series Champions in particularly unceremonious fashion. The offense amassed just three hits against Ryan Vogelsong, who entered the night with an unflattering 8.06 ERA. Zach Duke, making his first start since 2011, was pummeled to the tune of four earned runs in just 3.1 innings of work. And that wasn’t even the worst of it.

Prior to last night’s game, reports surfaced that Jayson Werth — who turned 34 yesterday — had suffered a setback in his recovery from an injured hamstring. But of course, Bryce Harper, who was injured at the front end of this road trip running full force into an outfield fence, returned to the lineup, so if we can embrace the good than we can certainly absorb the bad, right?

Well, what if the bad news was to multiply?

On Sunday, reliever Ryan Mattheus was knocked around against the Padres for five runs in just one official inning of work. But it wasn’t until yesterday that we learned of the kicker: after the game, Mattheus punched his locker and broke his hand in the process, a mental lapse that has sent the 29-year-old to the disabled list and further complicated the Nationals’ ongoing bullpen struggles.

To accommodate the loss of Mattheus, the Nationals have recalled relievers Fernando Abad and Yunesky Maya, a pair of pitchers with plus-5.00 ERAs lifetime (but Abad throws Southpaw, at least), while sending down outfielder Eury Perez to allow for the team to carry an eight man bullpen. The unfortunate side effect of having to scramble to patch together a bullpen due to a freak injury: the team is now short a bat, a blow made more significant by the team’s laboring to score runs.

For a team just narrowly perched above .500 (23-22) in spite of enormous expectations, its been rough week-plus to swallow. But here’s a positive anecdote to cling to until the Nationals return home to battle the Philadelphia Phillies later this week: on this date a year ago, the Giants were also hovering a game over .500 (21-20) and sitting in second place (though they were seven games behind the Dodgers). That’s the great thing about baseball. It isn’t always about where you’ve been, but where you’re going.

Good news, Nats fans: just two more games and our boys will be putting the West Coast behind them and heading home.

ED. NOTE: This post is cross-posted and initially appeared on Red Porch Report.