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Predictions for the Homestand

Hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend. So that was quite a trip, no? Who had 5-2 in the pool?

(LINEUPS added at the bottom, by the way.)

I know the offense came alive, and that, of course, is a big part of it. My gamer in yesterday's $.35-edition contained the following passage:

"When they left for this road trip, they had a .228 batting average, a .305 on-base percentage and a .330 slugging percentage - all worst in the league. In these seven games, they hit .310, had a .360 on-base percentage and slugged .504. When they left home, the Nationals had scored as many as seven runs just twice in their first 44 games. On the trip, they averaged seven runs a game."

What I didn't put in there - because the numbers weren't available when I wrote it - was that the .310 average since the day the road trip began, May 21, ranks second in the N.L. to Arizona's .312. The on-base percentage is third in that time behind the .378 of Arizona and .362 of Philadelphia. And the slugging percentage is also third, behind the .519 of Arizona and Cincinnati. (Diamondbacks apparently had a nice little offensive week.)

Now, let's settle down here. There is no question - no question - in my mind that playing four games at the Mediocre American Ball Park in Cincinnati had an impact on this. Ryan Church, for instance, has one more homer than he would have if he was playing somewhere else. Kearns probably does too.

Another factor: Have you seen the N.L. Central lately? Really, really shaky. (Read: Terrible.) When I saw the Brewers earlier in the month, I thought they had a very nice little team that would contend for the division. Now, having seen Cincy and St. Louis (along with the Cubs earlier in the month), it seems to me the Brewers should win the division by 12 games.

The point, as it pertains to the Nationals, is that the salad days, schedule-wise, are all but over. The next month of the schedule has a combined winning percentage of .534. The Dodgers and the Padres, the two teams that come here to start the nine-game homestand, are tied for first in the N.L. West. They want to feast on teams like the Nationals. How's that Brad Penny-Jason Simontacchi matchup sounding to you?

Anyway, as important as the offense has been to this rejuvenation - to borrow a page from Charlie Slowes's subsets-upon-subsets routine, the Nationals have won five of six, six of eight and 12 of 17 - I still think the fact that they have found pitchers, for the most part, to fill into this devastated rotation is a bigger deal. That's why I wrote this piece this morning, which had a chart on the front page of the $.35 edition showing the guys' stats as starters, etc.

The big question this week: Who starts on Friday? Can Joel Hanrahan, who threw three one-hit innings after coming off the Class AAA disabled list last night with a groin strain, be ready to come back and pitch in the majors - which he has never done before - on Friday against the Padres, taking the place of Levale Speigner? It's worth thinking about. (Who goes down, then, would be another matter. Winston Abreu has been really sharp. Saul Rivera? Gave up a run Sunday, but man, he's quietly effective, too.) UPDATE: I have been informed that Hanrahan will not be ready to pitch for the Nationals on Friday. So look elsewhere.

And the other question this week, which is a bit bigger picture: When do the rest of these guys come back? John Patterson throws a bullpen session today, and while I'll certainly check with him on how he fares, the more significant news for him comes in the days after the session, seeing how his arm responds and feels afterward. That's why I'll check with Shawn Hill today. His bullpen session was Saturday, and while he said it was just kind of OK, we should know what his next step is today. Jason Bergmann? He had fluid drained from his elbow last Thursday, and might be throwing again today.

The point is, there's still quite a lengthy progression for these guys to go through - bullpen sessions, simulated games, one or two minor league starts. And it's killing them. "I've been on the DL long enough," Hill said Sunday.

So considering all this - the state of the pitching staff, the revitalized offense, the opposition (Los Angeles, San Diego, Pittsburgh) - can I get you to make predictions on a record for the homestand? (Pssst: I'm thinking 5-4 would be a monumental success. I really am. I'd be interested if you're more optimistic/pessimistic/realistic.)

Really nice day. Just played out at Hains Point. Perfect. (The weather, not my game.) Hope to see you at the ballpark over the course of the homestand.

And here's your lineups, for your enjoyment:

Los Angeles:
Pierre -- 8
Furcal -- 6
Garciaparra -- 3
Kent -- 4
Gonzalez -- 7
Martin -- 2
Ethier -- 9
Abreu -- 5
Penny -- 1

Lopez -- 4
Guzman -- 6
Zimmerman -- 7
Church -- 7
Kearns -- 9
Belliard -- 3
Schneider -- 2
Logan -- 8
Simontacchi -- 1

By Barry Svrluga  |  May 29, 2007; 12:56 PM ET
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Next: Where Are They Now, May edition (Now with lineups -- going fast!)

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