The Washington Nationals have to be happy July is over.
After relinquishing their lead in the NL East and finishing the month a dismal 9-18, the Nationals will try to get August off to a positive start when they open a six-game homestand with the first of three against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Washington snapped its six-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over Florida on Sunday. Staff ace Livan Hernandez gave up two earned runs and struck out five to lead the Nationals to just their fourth win since the All-Star break.
“Maybe now the team will come back and play better,” Hernandez said. “We’ve got two months of baseball left.”
Washington sits 4 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the NL East. Heading into this homestand, the Nationals know the importance of at least keeping pace with the Braves.
“If you win one in each series, they (Atlanta) can only pick up a game on you,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “The big swing is the three-game deal. That’s why just a little bit of margin can be the difference.”
The Dodgers have lost three straight series and six of their last 10 games. Los Angeles scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning on Sunday against St. Louis to force extra innings, but went on to lose 7-5.
“A loss is a loss. They all stink, and they all are defeating,” Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent said. “As the season goes on, you have a tendency to think that they really aren’t. You just hope you don’t add up a whole lot of losses near the end of the year. I still believe that we have a team that’s good enough to be in the playoffs.”
Despite its slump, Los Angeles is just four games behind Arizona in the lowly NL West.