Road Trip Preview: The Western Swing

Photo courtesy of
‘Roy plays backup’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

The Nationals finished up their most recent homestand with a big win yesterday afternoon, coming up huge against the dominant Phillies.  Over the three-game series, the Nationals did a lot to make the best 1/2/3 starting combo in baseball today look a lot more human and hittable. Heading out of town for almost two weeks, the Nationals had a bit of an uneven homestand. I’d expected them to handle the Padres with a little more discipline, instead of dropping two close games on lack of offense.

The Nats are headed on a westward swing starting today, and that means a lot of late nights for Nats fans. Click on through for some thoughts on the upcoming road trip, and how you’re going to cope with the sleep loss.

Strategies for Coping: When I first moved to DC, I was (well, still am) an Oakland A’s fan. It was brutal!  Games on the West Coast means that you’re staring a 10:05 first pitch right in the jaws, and for those with early mornings to commute into the city, or make 8:30am staff meetings, a 1:30am bedtime is sort of anathema.  Here are a couple coping tips:

  • Master the Disco Nap. When you get home from work, you’re going to do three things. You’re going to sort the mail and handle that paperwork, you’re going to make sure the dishes are done, and you’re going to set your phone alarm and grab 30 minutes of rest. The trick of the Disco Nap isn’t necessarily dropping all the way off, it’s about resetting your evening.  Dropping down for 30-40 minutes right around 6:30 or 7, you’re going to reset your “tired” gauge without resetting your “sleep” gauge.  Don’t go down for longer than 30-40, though, you run the risk of messing up your sleep clock.
  • Don’t Caffeinate. I made this mistake early on, and it was brutal. Two diet cokes right around 9:30 or so, and I was up and awake and awesome for the game, but when the last out in the 9th was recorded, and I wanted to go clock out, my brain had decided that I had Serious Work To Be Done, and kept me up til 3. That was suboptimal.  So drop the caffeine, and switch to decaf coffee, or just a glass of water or Crystal Light or whatever.  That leads us to…
  • Be Careful with the Alcohol. I’m not saying don’t grab a beer for the game, I’m just here to warn you that you’re drinking later in the evening than you might normally, which means you’ll be finishing up your final frosty beverage later than you would usually, leaving you less time to process that alcohol through your bloodstream. Extra water is recommended if you want to make sure you’re smooth-sailing in the morning.
  • It’s Okay to give up and go to bed. I know the Sports Gods watch it live, I do, but it’s rare that a single game has made the difference, especially in a season with 161 other games.  Here are some criteria to use to guide your decision making process.  Is there a no-hitter or perfect game going on? Stay up, no hitters are awesome. Is it the 7th inning and the Nats’ starter is still in? Stay up, complete games are rare. Is someone close to hitting for the cycle? Is it the triple or homer they’re missing? Go to bed. Is it the single or double they’re missing? Stay up. One-run lead for either side? Stay up. If you haven’t met one of those conditions, and it’s the sixth, and it’s coming up on midnight, it’s okay to go to bed. No one will begrudge you that sleep.

Where are we going, again?

The Nats are headed to the NL West for 11 games. They start with four games in Arizona, which means you get to ease into it a little. Thursday and Friday are 9:40pm games, and Saturday is an 8:10pm game, but they also are having a bit of a season out there in the Desert.  Arizona leads the NL West at 31-25, and more importantly, have the 2nd best OPS in the NL and 3rd in total bases.  This will be a challenge for the Nationals’ pitching staff.

There’s good news here, though. They’ll bookend the series with their strongest pitchers, starting tonight with Jordan Zimmermann, and finishing Sunday with Jason Marquis.  In the middle, anything can happen.  Yunesky Maya is penciled into Friday’s game, and Livan Hernandez will start on Saturday.  For his career, Livo is 11-7 at Chase Field, with a 4.23 ERA, with 6 no-decisions. Maya doesn’t have enough data to deliver a good picture of his record, but his last start doesn’t instill a lot of confidence, given how hittable he was against the Padres the second time through the order.  If the Padres are going to put the hurt on you the second time around, then the D-backs are going to be a lot more painful.

After leaving Phoenix, the Nats head to San Francisco for three games, where they’re likely to face Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez.  The Giants, as a pitching staff, are the cream of the National League, with league-leading totals in fewest hits, fewest homers, and third fewest runs.  We’ve seen, though, that the Nationals can be their equal. Jason Marquis had a memorable complete-game shutout against Lincecum earlier this season, and Tom Gorzelanny through a 8 innings of shutout ball against them as well.  It’s possible that he could return for the final game against the Giants.

The Nationals end their trip in San Diego against the same Padres team that took 2 of 3 from them in some very close ballgames.  The conditions for another hard-to-watch series are pretty evident at this point.  Both the Padres and Nationals have had offensive difficulties this season, and so far in 2011, Petco Park in San Diego is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the majors.  Given their 9-20 record at home, the Padres are at a bit of a disadvantage, but that disadvantage is slight when you consider that the Nats hit just .178 at Petco last year. Ouch. Look for these games to get burned through quickly, thanks to the anemic offenses of both parties, so the 10:05 start times won’t feel so bad.

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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