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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 06/02/2011

Feeling good, Nationals head to the West Coast


The vibe in the Nationals’ clubhouse, for whatever that is worth, has drastically changed in the past two days. That’s probably a good sign. When the Nationals lose, they’re sullen and barely visible. When they win, Li’l Wayne blares in the clubhouse. The outcome affects their mood, and the past two days have changed it.

“There’s a big difference,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “Winning cures a lot of ills, especially when you beat a good ball club like that.”

The Nationals just achieve the rare feat (for them) of taking a series from the Phillies. Their reward is an 11-day road trip against the hottest team in baseball, the defending World Series champs and, mercifully, the Padres. Their West Coast swing starts today in Arizona with the first of a four-game series against the Diamondbacks, who before a loss Tuesday had won 13 of 14 games.

Tuesday night, Danny Espinosa said beating the Phillies in a series could be “a major turning point.” If the Nationals are going to build momentum from these past two days, they’ll need to improve on their road performance. The Nationals are 10-19 on the road, the third-worst road record in the majors. Conversely, they’re 14-12 at home.

The Nationals have played the majority of their games on the road – by the time they get back, it will be June 13 and they’ll have played 40, or half, of their road games for the season. So if they can get through this road trip at, say, 5-6, they’ll return to Nationals Park at 29-37 with 55 games to play at home, 41 to play on the road and, if all goes, Ryan Zimmerman coming back. That wouldn’t be all that bad, all things considered. Threatening .500 for the season would still be unlikely, but it would perhaps be in play.

Breaking even on the trip is not exactly aiming high, but it’ll also be a difficult task. The Diamondbacks are playing great. The Nationals have already beaten the Giants three out of four games this year, but that ballpark has been to the Giants – they’re 13-8 at home while selling out every night. The Padres are bad, and have an atrocious offense, but they did just beat the Nats two out of three.

That series seems like it ended last week, not three days ago. The Nationals, it seems, were able to move beyond their recent struggles with just a couple wins against the Phillies. Whether that carries across the country, we’ll see.

“Obviously, it’s upbeat after winning a series like that,” Jayson Werth said. “Day-in, day-out, we come in here ready to play. The mood before the game is consistent. There’s something about winning, you know, it’s not easy. We’ve got a long season. We’re starting to go as a team.”

FROM THE POST

Boz looks at how the Nationals are handling a leadership vacuum while confronting a culture of losing.

John Lannan finally beat the Phillies as the Nationals won 2-1 thanks to Laynce Nix’s breathtaking catch.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Louisville 2, Syracuse 1: Matt Antonelli went 4 for 4 with a home run. Tom Milone went 2 for 2. On the mound, Milone allowed two earned runs in seven innings on five hits and no walks, striking out nine.

Harrrisburg 10, New Hampshire 8: Stephen Lombardozzi went 2 for 5 with a home run. Derek Norris went 2 for 4. Chris Rahl went 2 for 5 with a triple.

Winston-Salem 2, Potomac 1 (10 innings): The P-Nats have lost 11 straight games. Sandy Leon went 2 for 3 with a double, a triple and a walk. Trevor Holder allowed one run in six innings on four hits and no walks, striking out three.

Greenville 14, Hagerstown 12:Bryce Harper went 2 for 5 with his 12th home run, a walk and three RBI. Blake Kelso went 3 for 4 with a double and two walks. David Freitas went 3 for 5 with two doubles. Brett Newsome went 4 for 5 with a double. Bobby Hansen allowed four runs in five innings on five hits and no walks, striking out 11.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 06/02/2011

 
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