Nats showing signs of jelling after 6-3 trip

Nats showing signs of jelling after 6-3 trip

PHOENIX -- Even after the Nationals completed a three-game sweep in Arizona, they pointed to the two series prior as perhaps the most encouraging signs of this nine-game road trip. Washington had a chance to see how it stacked up to Cleveland and San Francisco, two teams that appear bound for the postseason.

With an 8-3 victory over the D-backs on Wednesday, the Nationals finished this road trip 6-3 and have increased their lead in the National League East to seven games, which matches a season high.

"I just like how everyday we battled," Trea Turner said. "That's playing some good teams, that's good baseball right there and that's what you're going to look forward to in the playoffs, hopefully. We take care of business here and get the bats going and hopefully can continue that."

Despite their position in the standings, the Nationals believe they have yet to play their best baseball. Manager Dusty Baker said this week that he believes his team has the capacity to rattle off a strong month. They have started August with three consecutive wins, even if it did come against the struggling D-backs.

There is reason to believe the Nationals can still improve.

They made an upgrade at closer by adding right-hander Mark Melancon before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Bryce Harper, the reigning NL Most Valuable Player, is mired in a three-month slump. His .823 OPS is strong, but considered underperforming for one of the best hitters in the league. Ryan Zimmerman and Ben Revere have both struggled all season and are putting up numbers well below their career averages.

Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth were all out of the lineup Wednesday, yet every member of the Nats' lineup collected at least one hit, the second time they have done so this series. Perhaps this offense -- ranked eighth in the NL in batting average -- has yet to show it's full potential.

"I think it's all coming together at the right time, that's for sure," Werth said. "You don't want to play your best ball until the end, that's for sure. I still don't think we've played our best ball. ... I think as time goes on and we come down the stretch in a pennant chance, hopefully the whole thing will come together right at the right time."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.