Remember way back to the beginning of this month, when Stephen Strasburg was still in Syracuse, when the Nationals were still a .500 team and when the scheduling gods seemed to be smiling down upon this club?
Back then, the thinking was that the Nats had done a fantastic job surviving what would be the toughest portion of the season and now could really make a move during a prolonged stretch of games against lesser competition.
How has that worked out for them? Not so well. A club that sat at 25-26 when it arrived in Houston on Memorial Day has since gone 6-13. Worse the Nats have posted that .316 winning percentage against the Astros, Reds, Pirates, Indians, Tigers and White Sox. Combined record of those six teams: 186-227.
Point is, there's no such thing as an easy schedule in baseball. And you certainly can't assume one team is going to enjoy a upswing just because it's playing a bunch of games against sub-.500 opposition. Anyone can win on any given day in this sport. All it takes is a good pitching performance, a couple of clutch hits, some nice plays in the field.
The Nationals have learned this the hard way. Inside the clubhouse throughout April and May, guys kept saying: "If we can only hang around .500 through this first stretch of the season, the schedule gets a lot easier and then we can take off." On paper, that may have sounded like a reasonable approach. In reality, it's never as easy as it sounds.
The Nats have fallen to a season-worst eight games under .500 because they haven't gotten enough quality pitching, because they haven't gotten enough hits at the right times, because they haven't made enough plays in the field ... and because, often, the opposition has played better.
Now they find themselves in a real hole, needing to go on a prolonged stretch of winning just to get back within sniffing distance of .500.
The good news: The Nationals' next six games come against the Royals and Orioles. Combined record: 48-91. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to get healthy against some of the weakest competition the Nats will face all season.
Hopefully by now, both you and the Nationals understand how dangerous that line of thinking can be. The Nats may beat up on Kansas City and Baltimore this week. But they better not just assume it's going to happen.