Did you remember that the Nationals hit three home runs in one inning Wednesday night? With everything else that happened in the game, a dramatic feat became a footnote to the larger overall story. Nevertheless, the “Nat Trick” was an impressive occurrence that signified the team’s offensive breakout, which has seen the bats score 61 runs in their last eight games (7.6 runs per game) after scoring just six times total in a five-game losing stretch before that. Even more impressive than the raw numbers, though, is the fact that everyone is contributing.
On Tuesday, Davey Johnson gave Bryce Harper the night off, allowing him to miss a lefty starter and affording Tyler Moore a chance for some at-bats. Moore responded with a towering home run to left, one of the team’s six on the night. On Wednesday, Johnson sat Jayson Werth, a night after his four-hit game. That gave Roger Bernadina a chance to start, and he rewarded his skipper with a home run of his own. Oh, and Harper? He returned to the lineup to swat a pair of longballs, his second two-homer game in a week.
In the past two games – in which the Nationals have only batted a total of 16 innings, due to their cancellation of the bottom of the ninth each night – eight different players have combined to club 12 home runs. Adam LaRoche has led the way with three clouts, while Harper and Desmond have both pitched in a pair and Bernadina, Danny Espinosa, Jesus Flores, Moore and Ryan Zimmerman have one each. Collectively, they are just the third team in the last 95 years to post consecutive six-homer games, joining the ’96 Dodgers and the ’03 Angels.
Not to be outdone, Gio Gonzalez returned to the mound for the first time since his first career shutout last Friday, and was even more dominant. The lefty carried a no-hitter with no walks – the only baserunner to reach early came on an error in the third inning – all the way into the sixth. In the end, he allowed just three hits over seven scoreless frames, fanning nine Cubs without issuing a walk. He stretched his scoreless streak to 16 innings, striking out 17 and allowing just 11 runners to reach base over that span.
Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 06, 2012
While Gio tries to track down 20 wins, Jordan Zimmermann looks for his 10th Thursday night, which would be the first double-digit win total of his career. Saturday, it will be Ross Detwiler’s turn to do the same, and on Sunday, Edwin Jackson will look for his fourth consecutive season of 10 or more wins. Should each accomplish the feat this weekend, or at some other time over the season’s final four weeks, it will give each of the Nats five primary starters a double-digit total for the season.
This is all the more impressive when you consider the fact that last year, on a team that finished a respectable 80-81, John Lannan (who was recently called up for reinforcement down the stretch) was the only pitcher to reach that mark, winning exactly 10 games. For some perspective, not even the 102-win Phillies of 2011 managed to have five starters with 10 or more wins. In fact, the only four teams that turned the trick last year were Milwaukee, Tampa Bay, Texas and St. Louis – all four playoff teams, the final two of which battled it out for the World Series.
Really, that has been the narrative of the 2012 Nationals all season long, that the club’s depth, both on offense and on the pitching staff, is so solid. The storyline was somewhat obscured by the rash of injuries suffered by position players early on. But Cubs manager Dale Sveum commented after Thursday night’s contest that Washington is “by far the best team we’ve played all year.” At this point, the Nats are the best team that they have been all year as well, playing their most dominating baseball of the season down the stretch, when it matters most.
Enjoy the full dirty dozen of homers from the past two nights in the video below before the Nationals look for their fifth straight Curly W and a sweep of the Cubs later tonight.