Results tagged ‘ Chicago Cubs ’

Power Hour

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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.

Adam LaRoche has homered four times in the first three games of the series.

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.

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.

Gio Gonzalez and the Nats staff are closing in on some milestone numbers.

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.

What to Watch For: 9/5

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Chicago Cubs (51-84) vs. Washington Nationals (83-52)

RHP Chris Volstad (2-9, 6.06) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (17-7, 3.10)

The Nationals matched a franchise record with six home runs, coming off the bats of five different hitters, as they cruised to an 11-5 victory over the Cubs Tuesday night for their fifth win in the first six games of their current 11-game homestand. Gio Gonzalez takes the hill on the heels of his first career shutout as he looks for his career-high 18th win.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Bernadina CF

2. Harper RF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Gonzalez LHP

ABOUT THOSE HOMERS LAST NIGHT…

Ian Desmond hit a two-run, first-inning home run and Adam LaRoche went deep twice to spark a six-homer barrage. The Nationals became the first team representing the Nation’s Capital in 79 years of modern (1901-present) baseball (6,124 games) to hit more than four homers in a home game. The six homers also matched a Nationals (‘05-present) single-game mark (May 20, 2011 at Baltimore). Washington matched a season high with 11 extra-base hits, as all nine Nationals starters tallied at least one hit.

LAROCHE KEEPING ELIAS BUSY

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, with his 4-for-4, two-home run effort last night, LaRoche is the third Nationals player to go 4-for-4 or better with two homers in a game. The other to do it were Nick Johnson on April 20, 2006 (4-4, 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB, 2 R) and Josh Willingham on August 25, 2009 (4-4, 2 HR, 6 RBI, BB, 5 R). LaRoche ranks among National League first basemen in HR (first, 27), RBI (first, 87), SLG (third, .498) and OPS (third, .834).

START ME UP

Gonzalez is coming off the first shutout of his career in Friday’s 10-0 win vs. St. Louis. He struck out eight along the way en route to his second complete game in five starts. With 17, has already established a Nationals single-season record for wins, besting Livan Hernandez’s 15-win campaign in 2005. The last DC-based pitcher to win 18+: Bob Porterfield (22 in 1953).

DATE IN DC BASEBALL

September 5, 2011: Desmond (first-inning leadoff homer), Michael Morse (third career multi-homer game) and Jayson Werth (18th of the season) combined on three first-inning home runs, four total in the game, as Washington powered past the Dodgers, 7-2, at Nationals Park.

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What to Watch For: 9/4

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Chicago Cubs (51-83) vs. Washington Nationals (82-52)

LHP Chris Rusin (0-1, 1.80) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (8-9, 3.53)

The Nationals rode seven scoreless innings from Ross Detwiler to a 2-1, series-opening victory over the Cubs on Monday, their fourth win in the first five games of this homestand. They will look to Edwin Jackson to keep the momentum in their favor tonight, as he makes his first start since his magnificent, eight-inning, 10-strikeout performance last Thursday.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth CF

2. Desmond SS

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Espinosa 2B

7. Moore LF

8. Flores C

9. Jackson RHP

ELIAS SAYS…

Adam LaRoche clubbed his 25th home run of the season yesterday, a solo shot off Jeff Samardzija. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, LaRoche is one of four current MLB players who have had 25-homer seasons for four different MLB teams. Also hit 32 for the 2006 Braves, 25 for the ‘08 Pirates and 25 for the ‘10 Diamondbacks. The other players on that list are Adrian Beltre (Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox and Rangers), Alfonso Soriano (Yankees, Rangers, Nationals and Cubs) and Jim Thome (Indians, Phillies, White Sox and Twins).

THIRTYSOMETHING

By closing out Monday’s 2-1 win, Tyler Clippard became the third National to reach the 30-save plateau, joining Chad Cordero (47 in 2005, 37 in ‘07) and Drew Storen (43 in ‘11). Clippard also became just the third pitcher ever to record 30 saves and 10 holds in a single season. Clippard’s 30-save, 10-hold predecessors were Kerry Ligtenberg (30 saves/11 holds for Atlanta in ‘98) and Ugueth Urbina (32 saves/11 holds for Texas and Florida in ‘03)

MIDDLE MEN

Five games into this 11-game homestand, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa are a combined 16-for-38 (.421). Desmond (8-for-20) has hit safely in five of his last six games, all of which were multi-hit efforts. His RBI-single propelled the Nationals to the victory on Sunday afternoon. Espinosa (8-for-18) has hit safely in five straight and has notched six hits in his last nine at-bats.

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What to Watch For: 9/3

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Chicago Cubs (51-82) vs. Washington Nationals (81-52)

RHP Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.03) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (8-6, 3.32)

After taking three of four from the Cardinals to open the homestand, the Nationals host the Chicago Cubs for a four-game set beginning this afternoon in D.C.  Washington hands the ball to Ross Detwiler in hopes for a better showing against Jeff Samardzija, who handed the club its first loss of the season back in April.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Detwiler LHP

WELCOME TO D.C.

The Nationals today selected right-handed pitcher Christian Garcia and left-handed pitcher Zach Duke from Triple-A Syracuse. Additionally, the Nationals transferred right-handed pitcher Henry Rodriguez to the 60-Day Disabled List. Garcia converted all 21 save opportunities with a 2-1 mark and 0.86 ERA in 45 relief appearances this season with Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. In 27 appearances with the Chiefs, Garcia went 1-1 with 14 saves, a 0.56 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 32.1 innings pitched. The 27-year-old Garcia went 22-20 with 22 saves and a 3.22 ERA in 124 games/56 starts during seven seasons in the minor leagues, posting 10.1 strikeouts per 9.0 innings (414 K/369.0 IP) during that stretch.

Duke went 15-5 with a 3.51 ERA in 26 starts this season with Syracuse. His 15 wins lead all International League pitchers and matched the highest single-season win total by a Nationals farmhand (Brad Peacock, 15 wins for Syracuse in 2011). The 29-year-old went 4-0 with a 2.16 ERA over his final six starts with the Chiefs, posting 29 strikeouts and just five walks in 41.2 innings pitched. In seven big-league seasons, Duke is 48-74 with a 4.56 ERA in 181 games/168 starts with Pittsburgh (2005-10) and Arizona (2011). In 2009, he won a career-high 11 games and represented the Pirates at the All-Star Game in St. Louis.

GOOD WOOD

While tallying a 4-1 record the last five games, Washington has averaged 7.8 runs per contest. In the same five-game span, the Nationals are hitting .339 (62-for-183) with five doubles, a triple, nine home runs and 13 walks. Those five-game numbers include a .429 (18-for-42) mark with RISP.

SERIES NOTES

The Nationals are 23-25 in eight seasons against the Cubs. The Cubs have hit 11 more home runs (50-39) than the Nationals in the series. However, the Nationals are 11-7 in one-run games against CHI, including a 6-3 mark at in D.C. Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano’s magical 2006 season with the Nationals included a franchise-record 46 home runs. Davey Johnson hit .306 (15-for-49) for the Cubs in 24 games in 1978 and he played his last game in a big league uniform at Wrigley Field on September 28 of that year vs. the Mets.

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It’s The Little Things That Kill

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Sports are full of “firsts” and “lasts,” the types of facts and figures that allow us to place events in appropriate historical context. One of the most noted of these facts in baseball is that the Chicago Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908. What’s often forgotten is that the Cubs have also not won a pennant since 1945, a stretch of 67 years.

In that spirit, let’s go ahead and get the historical facts surrounding where the Washington Nationals stand today out of the way. The club will enter play this 27th of July, 2012 with a 59-39 record, matching the New York Yankees for the best record in the game. This marks the first time the Nationals have stood 20 games above the break-even point since their return to Washington in 2005. It is also the first time a Washington-based Major League Baseball team has been in such a position since the 1945 Senators finished their campaign at 87-67, the same year as that last Cubs pennant.

Steve Lombardozzi is now 4-for-5 with a double, triple and 8 RBI with the bases loaded in his young career.

In fact, at 59 wins the Nationals have already matched their season total from both 2008 and 2009, with 64 games still left to play.

And while all that is notable, games are still won day-to-day, moment-to-moment. It is the little things that continue to have a big impact for the Nationals. Take Thursday night’s game against the Brewers, for example. There was one very loud moment, which you probably remember, and a much quieter one that you may have missed, which turned the game.

The Nationals scored their first run on an Adam LaRoche solo shot, his third home run in as many games, coming on Yovani Gallardo’s first pitch of the second inning. That feat alone was impressive enough, but the fact that it came in lock step with MASN’s highlight package made it even more incredible. F.P. Santangelo had just finished detailing LaRoche’s previous blast as he stepped to the plate, describing the opposing pitcher’s location mistake as a “fastball right down the middle for a home run…” and crack. The ball sailed over the right-center field wall, LaRoche trotted around the bases, and Santangelo continued. “You are looking live, this is not the highlight package that we just showed.”

But it was when Roger Bernadina drew a two-out walk that the Nationals sprung at the opportunity to do some real damage. With the runner at first, the Milwaukee defense played batter Jesus Flores to pull the ball, moving the shortstop into the hole, and pulling the second baseman farther up the middle, assuming coverage of the base on a possible steal. Davey Johnson put on the hit-and-run, drawing the second baseman to the bag and opening up the right side of the infield for Flores, who swatted what would normally be a routine ground ball through the vacated infield dirt, Bernadina racing around to third on the single.

Following the play, Bob Carpenter and Santangelo remarked that Flores had already done his job in the inning. No matter the result, by reaching, Flores had gotten the pitcher to the plate, meaning that at the very least, leadoff man Steve Lombardozzi would lead off the third inning. But Gallardo was flustered by the turn of events, falling behind fellow pitcher Edwin Jackson at the plate 3-0 before walking him to load the bases. Lombardozzi then yanked a clutch, two-out triple inside of first base and down into the right-field corner, and the Brewers never responded.

Edwin Jackson continued to impress, both on the mound and on the basepaths.

Meanwhile, LaRoche’s bizarre kinship with his former teammate Jackson – with whom he also played in Arizona – continued, as he hit the seventh of his team-leading 19 home runs in a game that Jackson started. And Jackson continued the trend of superb starting pitching of late. In the last turn of the rotation, Nationals starters have allowed just three runs in 34.0 innings pitched, good for a 0.79 ERA.

For their troubles, the Brewers get lefty Ross Detwiler tonight, who is 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA this month. On Saturday, they will face Jordan Zimmermann, who will make his homecoming start in his native state of Wisconsin and currently sits at an otherworldly 3-0, 0.87 through his first four starts in July.

The Nationals, meanwhile, are looking at uncharted waters, a chance to not only push more than 20 games above .500 for the first time ever, but also to notch their seventh straight Curly W, which would mark the longest winning streak of the season. The Nationals have not won that many consecutive games since taking eight straight from June 10-18 of last year.

All of that talk can wait, though. For now the Nats will focus on getting one more baserunner on offense, one more out on defense, doing what they have done all year long. The best part? You can watch it all again tonight.

One for the Ages

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Baseball is a funny game. It has a way of testing its most patient and passionate of fans, yet rewarding them in the end. There is no doubt that Boston’s 2004 World Series title was that much sweeter for Red Sox fans who waited 86 years for it to finally happen, the same way Chicago Cubs fans will finally revel in glory when their curse is broken (someday…maybe).

Bryce Harper rewarded the fans Monday night with his first Major League home run.

Fans flocked to Los Angeles, then to Washington, then to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, all in hopes of watching baseball’s youngest star, Bryce Harper, launch his first home run. They all came away without such a memory. They saw him live up to expectations by crashing into walls, firing opposite field missiles for doubles, even stealing home. But they never got that ultimate payoff.

No, that honor was reserved for the hearty souls who made their way to Nationals Park Monday night in the wake of dismal weather forecasts, who remained in their seats through the light rain into the third inning, when suddenly Harper jumped on a slider that just didn’t slide enough, driving it on a line to the deepest park of the park in dead center field. The hard-hit ball landed softly with a thud on the grass below the batter’s eye, and there it was. Harper hustled around the bases, took his curtain call, as demanded by the fan base that had waited for this moment.

It may not have been the most dramatic blast anyone’s ever seen. But it came in a game the Nats would go on to win, one that would put them back in sole possession of first place in the NL East. That alone made the dinger crucial beyond its obvious historical relevance. For those who love the compelling storylines, though, do not despair. If we’ve learned anything from Harper’s first few weeks in the Major Leagues, it’s that he will provide plenty of exciting moments in the months and years to come.

Five Astounding Facts

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The Nationals began their 2012 campaign exactly two weeks ago, at the hallowed grounds of Wrigley Field. Since then, they have packed as much gut-wrenching, will-testing excitement into the beginning of their season as any fan could hope for. If you still have fingernails left, scroll down and take a look at five of the most astounding facts of the young season so far, then vote for your favorite in the poll at the end of the post.

The display put on by Jordan Zimmermann and company is no mirage.

Make Your Best Pitch: The Nationals Staff

The pitching staff has a collective 1.92 ERA through the first 13 games, more than a half-run better than the next closest team in the league. Nats pitchers have allowed just two home runs while striking out 121 batters in 122 innings, both best in the game. Edwin Jackson – the author of the most impressive individual outing of the year to date – has the HIGHEST ERA in the rotation at 2.57, which also includes Stephen Strasburg (1.42), Jordan Zimmermann (1.29) and Ross Detwiler (0.90). Fellow newcomer Gio Gonzalez, meanwhile, has been downright unhittable at home in D.C. His modest line through two starts at Nationals Park: 14.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 15 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.43 WHIP.

Crazy 8’s: Runs in 8th inning or later

Washington has scored 17 of its 49 runs this season (35% of the offense) in the eighth inning or later. The Nationals used the eighth inning to power themselves to victory once again on Wednesday, scoring the decisive pair of runs to flip a 2-1 deficit to a 3-2 victory.

One-Run Fun: Plenty of one-run games

The Nationals have played 13 games so far in 2012. Eight of those contests have been decided by a single run, with Washington owning a 5-3 record in such

affairs. Washington did not play its eighth one-run game in 2011 until May 12, the 37th game of the season. The experience gained from these pressure-packed battles should serve the club well as the season unfolds.

The first two weeks of the season have been nothing, if not exciting.

Comeback To Me: Come-from-behind wins

The Nationals have trailed early and come from behind in half of their 10 wins thus far. That’s right, five of the team’s 10 wins have been of the come-from-behind variety. In fact, the team has led at some point in all but two games so far – the near-comeback on the third day of the season against the Cubs, after trimming a four-run deficit to one, and the near-sweep of Cincinnati, when Washington climbed out of a five-run hole to force extra innings, only to fall in 11 frames.

First!: Quickest team to 10 wins

As Henry Rodriguez took just seven pitches to close out the Astros in the ninth inning on Wednesday, the Nationals finished off their 10th win before the Texas Rangers could put away the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. That meant that Washington was the first team in Major League Baseball to hit the double-digit win mark. As the Dodgers lost Wednesday night in Milwaukee, the Nationals own the best record in the National League.

Weekly Review (4/9)

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Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Tuesday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day storylines, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

After a long spring, the Nationals made their much-anticipated return to Washington to begin the 2012 season. Following one final game in Florida against the Red Sox at their brand new Grapefruit League home, JetBlue Park, the two teams squared off again in our Nation’s Capital. While the Nationals made a valiant comeback, rallying from a 6-0 deficit to take a late lead, the real story of the day came in the second game played on the field, as the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team soundly defeated a group of D.C. celebrities.

The Nationals hit the road to officially open the season, sending Stephen Strasburg to the hill at historic Wrigley Field for his first-ever Opening Day start. Washington couldn’t break through to provide the heralded right-hander with any run support during his seven strong innings, but rallied with single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to steal a 2-1 victory. Meanwhile, as the team enjoyed an off-day on Friday, outfielders Rick Ankiel and Michael Morse were just up the road from D.C. in Bowie, MD on Major League rehab stints with the Harrisburg Senators. Both players looked just fine at the plate, as each homered in a 5-2 victory.

On Saturday, the Nationals continued their come-from-behind ways, trailing by two late before a five-run, two-out rally in the eighth inning keyed a 7-4 victory. Sunday’s game began to follow the same script, as Washington cut a three-run deficit to one on Adam LaRoche’s two-out, two-run shot in the ninth. However, the team’s third comeback attempt in three days came up just shy in a 4-3 loss to the Cubs.

Thu. @ CHC: W, 2-1

Sat. @ CHC: W, 7-4

Sun. @ CHC: L, 4-3

Weekly Record: 2-1

Cleaning Up the Offense

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Sunday brought some good news and some bad news for the Nationals. The bad news: the dream of a perfect 162-0 season is gone, as is their streak of come-from-behind victories. The good news: even though they came up just short against the Cubs on Sunday, the Nats still took two of three at Wrigley to start the season, and head to New York to take on the Mets for a three-game set before heading back to D.C. for the home opener on Thursday.

Ryan Zimmerman appreciates Adam LaRoche's hot start so far this season.

The trends of the first two games continued, as again the offense was dormant early but exploded late. Unfortunately, Washington came up a run shy in the loss, but the team has now scored nine of its 12 runs in the eighth inning or later, after Adam LaRoche’s two-run shot in the ninth on Sunday afternoon. It was the second longball in as many days for the first baseman, who lost most of his 2011 season to injury but has started this season with a bang (or rather, two).

There was a lot of preseason talk about a former Nationals first baseman named Adam – Dunn, that is – heading into the season as a candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year. The way LaRoche has played so far, he seems primed to enter his own name into that debate. He is batting .412 (5-for-12) with the two dingers, three runs scored and four RBI through his first three games, numbers that have to feel especially good after struggling through just 43 games last season.

There was a even a smattering of Nationals red in the crowd at Wrigley enjoying Washington’s series win. Those of you who follow us on Twitter may have already seen this, but we figured it was worth a share with everyone. As if the drama of the last three games wasn’t already enough, hopefully this helps you Ignite Your Natitude. After all, baseball comes home to Washington in just three days.

Also, make sure to check in on Facebook around noon tomorrow, as a few Nationals will be visiting the MLB Fan Cave and taking your questions live. Which players, you ask? You’ll just have to drop by and find out.

Better Late Than Never

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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.

Adam LaRoche tied a career high with four hits, including a big two-run home run.

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.

Danny Espinosa started the Nats' five-run, eighth-inning rally.

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.

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