The Nats have dropped 5 straight, taking them from the heights of "Did someone say Wild Card?" to the lesser heights of "Hey, the Nats lost 5 straight and are still .500". I don't think there is any Nats fan that wouldn't take 20-20 at this point in the season but a couple more losses and there's going to be that nagging feeling in the back of the head of "Here we go again."
That's why this little homestand is so important. First, the Nats face the Mets for 2 games, where 2 losses would likely put the Nats back in last in the NL East. Sure it would be only by a game or so, but it's still last place. If they can't at least split these two games, especially when the first one looks to be R.A. Dickey vs Livan!, then imagine the funk they'll be in when the Orioles come into town. The Orioles are a completely beatable team, but they'd then be catching the Nats at the exact right time. A poor showing against the Orioles, in what is usually a fairly highlighted series, and the good feelings generated by a nice start might vanish, even if the Nats sit at a respectable 21-24.
Follow this nightmare scenario with a West Coast swing which are usually difficult and the Nats could be looking at 25-30 or worse coming home (they have to at least split with Houston, right?). Instead of Strasburg coming in to take the Nats to the next level, he enters trying to "save" the season.
That's the worst case. Now imagine the Nats take the 2 games series from the Mets. The streak is stopped and better yet the Nats could retake in second place. Sure it's just by a game or so, but it's still second place. Then they go into the Orioles series with the momentum AND the better team. They show the whole area that they are the better team, the squad truly on the rise and now they are 24-21. That West Coast trip rather than a daunting drudge on the other side of the country, now looks like a road trip with a bunch of winnable games. 5-5? 6-4? The Nats could be 30-25 going into the Strasburg series. Now Strasburg doesn't have to be a savior.
Sure the most likely scenario is the Nats end up closer to 27-28 when the Reds roll into town, but if the season is going to turn into something special or something awful, I've got a feeling this little five game jaunt is going to be critical.