Better Late Than Never
There are two ways that a ball club can improve its performance from year to year. The first is by acquiring players to give themselves a stronger roster – very simply, making the team more talented. The other path to improving a club’s record comes by finding ways win the games it’s not necessarily supposed to win. You know, the ones where there’s a late deficit to overcome, where the offense has done little to inspire confidence, but breaks out of its shell just in time to steal victory from the jaws of defeat.
The Nationals certainly added to their talent pool in 2012 by acquiring a couple nice pieces to their starting rotation and getting a number of players back from injury on both sides of the ball. But the story in the early going of the 2012 campaign has been their late-game comeback ability. Through two contests, 10 of the team’s 16 hits and seven of their nine runs have come in the eighth inning or later.
Of course, winning late is nothing new for the Nationals. Seven of their 17 wins in September of last year were of the come-from-behind variety. Much of that same team has been on the field these first two games in Chicago, but there are a couple of noticeable differences, and each has been key in Washington’s victories.
Nationals fans may not have known much about Chad Tracy before this week, but the hero of the season so far is quickly gaining notoriety in D.C. He delivered again on Saturday with another late, two-out hit, plating a pair of runs to put the Nationals ahead for good.
The other big game on Saturday belonged to Adam LaRoche, who not only put Washington ahead early with a two-run home run off the foul pole in right, but also tied a career-best with four hits overall.
Looking to Sunday’s series finale, the Nationals will hand the ball to Jordan Zimmermann for his first 2012 start. If Washington can give him some early support against Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs, the team will be looking at a franchise first – a three-game road sweep to open the season.
Danny Espinosa – who homered to kick-start the five-run, two-out, eighth-inning rally – expressed appreciation for what his team has been able to do so far, but also wouldn’t mind seeing some of those runs come earlier in the game.
“We want to fight, try to jump out early and hopefully get the lead,” the second baseman said after Saturday’s win. “[But] it’s nice to know that we have the ability to come back, we don’t die, we continue to fight.”
We’ll see which variety of game the team plays in the final game of Opening Weekend.