The Nationals couldn't have this road trip end soon enough.
What was supposed to be a golden opportunity to pad their division lead in a stretch that included struggling opponents like the San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers has instead turned into a season-high seven-game losing skid.
Luckily for the Nats, they'll finally be heading back to D.C. on Sunday night after they try to salvage a win in Milwaukee. But before they do, here are a few thoughts on Saturday night's 6-5 loss to the Brewers:
Gonzalez' struggles continue: Gio Gonzalez' season has started to spiral out of control, and he did nothing on Saturday to stop the bleeding. He allowed six runs on six hits over just three innings of work — his shortest outing of the year and putting the Nats in catch-up mode the rest of the game.
When Gonzalez is struggling, his starts tend to follow a typical script: trouble with command — he registered a walk and two hit batsmen — and bouts with pitch inefficiency. Not only that, but he's no longer throwing his changeup down and away to right handed hitters anymore, instead catching too much of the plate, as was the case in the first inning on Saturday when Chris Carter launched a three-run home run.
It's all added up to an 0-6 record in his last seven outings with an eye-popping 8.44 ERA. Ouch.
Offense can't complete comeback: Though Gonzalez put the Nats down in an early 6-1 hole, they found a way to slowly climb back to make it a 6-5 game by the seventh inning thanks in part to another multi-hit game from both Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos. However, as has been in the case over the last week, that big go-ahead knock they needed never came. Washington had chances in each of the last three innings to level the game with the tying run on base, but came up short in each instance.
Unlucky seven: The Nats' seven-game losing streak marks the team's longest skid since the dark days of 2009, a season in which there were four different seven-game slides and the club finished with the worst record in baseball at 59-103. Of course, Washington's come a long way since then. So while this current streak is sparking plenty of doom-and-gloom talk right now, remember that the Nats still own a two-game NL East lead over the New York Mets, who will travel to D.C. for a three-game set starting Monday.
Time to be concerned about Strasburg? As if the losing streak wasn't bad enough, Dusty Baker told reporters after Saturday's loss that Stephen Strasburg will miss Sunday's start after feeling continued discomfort in his upper back. The scratch will make it two straight starts that the 27-year-old right hander has missed, so it's fair to wonder just how serious this latest setback might be. Can Tanner Roark be the stopper the Nats desperately need right now?