The Nats have a very important homestand coming up. They are roughly a 1/10th into the baseball season (I know!) and have played all of three teams. They've dominated the Marlins and the Mets, who are fighting to prove they are .500 teams and they've been dominated by the Braves, who are fighting for division and league titles. Seems pretty cut and dried, but the Nats are also very familiar with these teams and vice versa so facing some outsiders helps to really figure out the course of the team. This homestand features three teams not in the NL East and by the end we should have a good idea of who the Nats (minus all those injured guys) are. We should also have a much better idea of when all those injured guys are coming back. All in all we'll know by the end of the month if it's time to panic, if the Nats have got this, or likely if the team is somewhere inbetween.
The Nats themselves are dealing with some difficult injury issues. They've managed to hang on but there are a lot of questions with how they are doing it. Is Danny Espinosa really back? (not sure) Is Zach Walters this good? (no of course not) When is Ian Desmond going to start hitting? (soon I hope) It doesn't look good - but it doesn't have to be good for long. A couple days hopefully for Bryce. Maybe a week for Span. Just get lucky and get a hot bunch for a week and things are ok. The pitching is more of a concern but it's more an "watch it" than "panic" thing. We'll be watching each start fearing another crash, most notably with Strasburg, but the talent still seems to be there. The bad starts are probably flukes... probably.
The first opponent is the toughest one. Four games versus the defending NL champs, the patron saints of constant competition (for those not willing to break the bank), the St. Louis Cardinals.They come in at 9-6 and playing pretty well, taking 4 of their last 5 and 2 of their last 3 versus the division leading Brewers. Offensively, the team was ice cold but the bats are coming around, hitting .285 / .338 / .425 in the last 7 days. Jhonny Peralta, who was particularly terrible to start the year is now particularly red hot, along with Molina. The remaining issues are when will Allen Craig come around and is Kolten Wong ever going to show he belongs at the major league level.
Pitching wise the team doesn't really have any issues. Shelby Miller is the only starter with bad stats but he's been improving each time out. Rosenthal has been a bit shaky but everyone still believes in him. If either of these guys falters Carlos Martinez is there to be awesome and stuff.
The short of it is - they are good and they are playing well so this could be a tough series.
The Angels are the next appointment and they are mired in expected mediocrity. The offense is clicking enough but they lost another cog in Kole Calhoun. Adding that to Hamilton eventually that's gotta catch up with them, especially since the early success is in part because of freaky good bench perfromance. Meanwhile the pitching is struggling. The bullpen is kind of a mess, they don't have a 5th starter, and Jered Weaver is getting killed by the long ball. This has all the looks of a team about to bottom out.
The Padres are the polar opposite of the Angels - they can pitch but can't hit. You'd expect the hitting to get better. It's a lot of guys way underperforming and the good performances aren't crazy. On the flip side you'd expect the pitching, well at least the starting pitching, to get worse. Cashner could be a very good pitcher but the rest don't scare anyone. They are certainly capable but I see them as also capable of being killed. The pen is full of talent though. Doesn't that always seem to be the case for SD?
The Nats face the Cardinals and could be out Zimm, Ramos, Span and Bryce? Good luck with all that. I'm going to go ahead and predict 1 win in four games. Hey, this team is kind of reeling and was a couple of Saltalamacchia brain freezes from losing two of three to Miami. I see the Angels though as ripe for the picking, injured themselves and starting from a lower point. Sweep? The Padres pitching should keep them in the games but the Nats are better.
Best (likely) case :
Worst (likely) case :
As long as Bryce and Span are back by the end of the Cards series I think they'll be fine.