Results tagged ‘ Kurt Suzuki ’
Jordan Zimmermann was dominant against the defending American League Champion Detroit Tigers on Monday, setting down the final 18 batters he faced after allowing a leadoff single to begin the game. And as impressive as he was in dismantling one of the best offenses in baseball, he accomplished a feat even more rare off the field just last week.
As they have done each of the last three years, a collection of Nationals players, coaches and staff joined together for a par three scramble challenge on the Doral course near Space Coast Stadium last Monday night. With the off day on Tuesday, the tradition allowed for the group to come together off the field and bond over some friendly competition.
If you didn’t already know, the Nationals feature a number of very good golfers, mostly members of the pitching staff, particularly the bullpen. Each group of four on the course had a designated A, B, C and D player, based on respective skill. Zimmermann, whose golf score hovers around his fastball – somewhere in the mid-90s, according to the pitcher – was the “C” player on Tyler Clippard’s squad, which began the day on the third hole, just over 100 yards long. And while Clippard may have been the designated “A” player, it didn’t take long for Zimmermann to establish himself as the ringer of the team.
“First swing of the day,” explained Zimmermann. “I pulled my pitching wedge, spun it back, and it went in.”
A hole-in-one on his very first swing, and style points to boot with the backspin.
Along with Clippard, Zimmermann’s team included Syracuse Chiefs hitting coach and “B” player Troy Gingrich, as well as Nationals strength and conditioning coach John Philbin, holding down the “D” player spot. Together, they combined to go 11 under par over 18 holes, forcing a playoff.
On the first playoff hole, Zimmermann again stepped up to finish what he had so masterfully started.
“He buried a 20-footer to win,” said Clippard, whose team knocked off the foursome of Drew Storen, Rick Eckstein, Harrisburg Senators pitching coach Paul Menhart and Kurt Suzuki.
It was both Clippard and Zimmermann’s first win in the tournament’s three-year history, but Philbin’s second consecutive win. Simply known as “Coach” to most in the clubhouse, they gave him a hard time for backing into his success again.
“Somehow Coach always finds his way onto the winning team,” said Zimmermann, who certainly earned the right to make the joke.
The par three scramble challenge will no doubt remain an annual tradition, as it is one of the only times all year the entire team is able to convene outside of the ballpark, just relax, and enjoy each other’s company.
“I wish we could do it once a week,” said Clippard of the event.
Of course, winning probably helps.
The Nationals announced Wednesday night that they have acquired right-handed pitchers A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen, as well as a player to be named later from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse.
Cole, who was originally selected by the Nationals in the fourth round of the 2010 First-year Player Draft and traded to Oakland for Gio Gonzalez last offseason, returns to Washington. The 6’4”, 21-year-old hurler ranked as the A’s number three overall prospect and top pitcher, according to Baseball America’s rankings released in November. Cole also came in at fourth in Washington’s rankings the year prior. He split his 2012 season between Low-A Burlington and High-A Stockton, putting up an impressive 6-3 record and 2.07 ERA (22 ER/95.2 IP) with 102 strikeouts and just 19 walks in 19 Midwest League starts. He ranked top-five in the Oakland organization in both ERA and strikeouts.
Treinen, 24, was taken by the Athletics in the seventh round of the 2011 Draft out of South Dakota State University. He compiled a 7-7 ledger with a 4.37 ERA (50 ER/103.0 IP) over 24 appearances (15 starts) in the hitter-friendly California League last year. Like Cole, he also posted great peripheral numbers, striking out 92 while walking just 23 (4.00 K/BB rate) on the season.
Washington will also receive a player to be named later from Oakland in the deal, the third made between the two clubs in the last 13 months. In addition to the aforementioned Gonzalez trade, the two defending division champions swapped backstops in August, with the Nationals receiving Kurt Suzuki for minor league catcher David Freitas. Washington also acquired right-handed pitcher Henry Rodriguez and outfielder Corey Brown from Oakland in December of 2010 for outfielder Josh Willingham.
The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. Today we take a closer look at the other left-handed Gonzalez on the Nats pitching staff, Michael.
Every year, some teams make big splashes around the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, slinging prospects for superstars, or vice versa. The Nationals made one modest trade, landing catcher Kurt Suzuki, but one of their more intriguing pickups came well before then. In need of an extra reliever due to a bullpen thinned by injury early in the season, Washington took a flyer on veteran free agent lefty Michael Gonzalez.
While he flew under the radar much of the season – as non-closing relievers often do – Gonzalez played an integral role in Washington’s 2012 success. The 34 year-old found a home as both a lefty specialist and a high-pressure situational pitcher for the Nationals.
The Corpus Christi, TX native got off to a great start, as he did not allow a run in his first 11 appearances out of the bullpen and carried an ERA under 3.00 until the final week of the season. As expected for a southpaw with a sweeping delivery, he was particularly strong against left-handed hitters, holding them to just a .179/.257/.269 line with 23 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances. But it was his success in high leverage situations, the ones that often dictate the outcome of close games, where he truly shined.
Gonzalez was often called upon to get the Nationals out of jams, coming on with runners on base in the middle of innings. In his 47 appearances, he came on 18 times with a runner on base and 12 times with more than one. Of the 33 total basrunners Gonzalez inherited, only seven scored, meaning he stranded 26 of them (79%), the most of any Nationals reliever this past year. He also notched 39 strikeouts in just 35.2 innings of work, good for 9.8 K/9.0 IP.
Originally a 30th-round pick by the Pirates back in the 1997 Draft, Gonzalez has put together a solid 10-year Major League resume, with a career ERA of just 2.94 in nearly 400 innings, all out of the bullpen. As a free agent, it remains to be seen whether Gonzalez – who has also pitched for the Pirates, Braves, Orioles and Rangers – will return to the Nationals for the 2013 season.
The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. After a short hiatus, we are back at it with one of the Washington backstops, catcher Jesus Flores.
With the myriad of injuries beset upon the Nationals catching crew in 2012, there was one constant behind the plate, one man who was there, day in, day out, working with the pitching staff. Jesus Flores had nearly as many at-bats (277) as the fellow quintet of backstops he shared time with combined (303), appearing in over half of Washington’s games this year. Defensively, he caught nearly 47 percent of all innings thrown in 2012 by Nationals pitchers.
Flores was thrust into the starting role after Wilson Ramos tore his ACL on a rainy Saturday night, May 12 in Cincinnati. When Chase Headley ran over Sandy Leon – the latter only a couple innings into his Major League debut – just 72 hours later, even more pressure landed on Flores to handle the league’s best pitching staff. He responded both defensively and offensively with his best stretch of the season, batting .320/.352/.500 through June 3, his first 15 games following Ramos’ injury.
Flores’ offensive contributions this season were sometimes obscured, though. His first home run of the year was overshadowed almost immediately, as it was followed by Stephen Strasburg’s first roundtripper of his Major League career, when the duo went back-to-back off Orioles starter Wie-Yen Chen on May 20 at Nationals Park. Flores’ next three longballs all came against Atlanta, each in crucial wins. He opened the scoring off Brandon Beachy with a solo shot in the fifth inning of a 2-0 victory on June 2, then went deep against Randall Delgado on June 29 to help Washington to a 5-4 triumph. Finally, his three-run blast off Paul Maholm on August 21 provided the difference in a 4-1 Nationals victory.
Meanwhile, the backstop continued to improve defensively. After never posting a range factor above 7.00, Flores notched a 9.16 mark over 80 games in 2012, while logging a career-high 687.2 innings behind the plate. He held down the fort throughout the spring and early summer until the arrival of Kurt Suzuki in early August, at which point he returned to his backup role for the stretch run.
With Ramos set to return sometime next spring, the Nationals will have some decisions to make about the future of their deep and experienced catching corps. Flores is entering the final of his four arbitration years (he was a Super Two, starting back in 2010), and is set to become a free agent after the 2013 season.
Washington Nationals (96-62) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (85-73)
LHP Ross Detwiler (10-7, 3.28) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (17-7, 3.69)
With their extra-inning victory Saturday night, the Nationals inched within a single win or Atlanta loss of clinching the National League East. They look to do so – and to win the series against the Cardinals – this afternoon with St. Louis native Ross Detwiler on the hill, pitching in his hometown as a Major Leaguer for the first time.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
From catcher Kurt Suzuki, on his two-out, two-run, game-winning hit in the 10th inning following an intentional walk to Danny Espinosa:
“You want to be in those situations…you want to go up there and make them pay.”
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
THE NEXT MAGIC MOMENT
Having clinched a spot in MLB’s postseason, the Nationals now turn their attention to winning the NL East…Washington’s magic number to clinch the NL East is ONE game.
The Nationals – via a 4-1 home win over Los Angeles on September 20 – have assured The Nation’s Capital of its first postseason October baseball since the 1933 AL Nationals lost a five-game World Series to the Giants. Those AL Nationals also won AL pennants in 1924 (World Champions) and ‘25. This mark’s the second post-season trip for the franchise, as Montreal lost to the Dodgers in the five-game ‘81 NLCS.
96 CURLY W’s IN THE BOOKS
With four games remaining, Washington has already established a franchise best with 96 wins and needs three wins to match the best mark by a D.C.-based team (‘33 Senators). The Nationals are the first ballclub from the Nation’s Capital to eclipse the 90-win plateau in 79 years or since the pennant-winning 99-win ‘33 AL Nationals. This is the ninth 90-win campaign posted by a D.C. baseball team…from 1913-33, the AL Nationals posted eight 90-win seasons: 1933 (99 wins), 1925 (96), 1930 (94), 1932 (93), 1931 (92), 1924 (92), 1912 (91), 1913 (90).
Baseball is a sport of routines, of countless situations played over and over again. It is a game that, more often than not, rewards those teams that are able to consistently take advantage of the opportunities afforded them to score runs and win games. However, one of the greatest parts about baseball is the likelihood of seeing something you’ve never seen before in each and every game. There are so many different ways for any given situation to unfold that no two games would ever play out exactly alike, even if – by some miracle – the box scores looked identical.
This anachronism played true to form on Saturday night, when the Nationals needed just two swings to take control of their fate, beating the host Cardinals in 10 innings to lower their NL East magic number to one. The first swing happened with no bat and no ball, and was a first for everyone in the ballpark, no matter how much baseball their eyes had seen. Michael Morse stepped into the box with the bases loaded and drove a ball the other way, clearing the right-field wall before caroming off the electronic billboard behind it and back into play. Initially ruled a single on the field, confusion reigned among the Nationals runners on the base paths, with Morse eventually being tagged out sliding back into first. Following a review, the umpires determined correctly that the ball had in fact cleared the wall for a grand slam.
Home runs have been overturned before in baseball since the advent of replay, but none have played out quite the way this one did. Morse, who had stayed at first base during the review, began running the bases when home plate umpire Cory Blaser gave the home run signal. However, he was ordered to go back to the base where he started when the play began. Initially he circled back around second to first, but was eventually sent back to home plate, with Bryce Harper – who began the play at third base and had been in the dugout for several minutes after scoring – summoned to return to the field as well. Upon arriving back at the batter’s box, Morse, not knowing what to do, took a phantom swing, then went into his home run trot, even tossing in his trademark helmet slap as he rounded the bases. Fittingly, a full moon rose from behind the outfield bleachers the next inning, looming over the spot where the ball had left the yard.
The Nationals would not score again until the 10th inning, after the Cardinals had come back to tie the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth. This time, they did so on a play that baseball lifers have seen time and time again, one that anyone who has been following the Nats closely down the stretch over the past few weeks could see coming a mile away. Adam LaRoche, who led the inning off with a single, stood at second base with two outs following a Roger Bernadina sacrifice bunt and an Ian Desmond fly out. With Danny Espinosa at the plate, Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny elected to intentionally walk Espinosa, rather than let his reliever, Fernando Salas, face him.
In theory, the move was a shrewd one. Espinosa had found success against Salas in the past. Perhaps he remembered Espinosa’s triple off Salas on April 20 last season. He almost certainly had images of Espinosa’s three-run, walk-off home run that Salas served up in Washington a couple months after that. Perhaps it was as simple as wanting a righty-righty matchup instead of letting a left-handed batter (or switch-hitter, batting left) beat him. But Kurt Suzuki has not been just any right-handed hitter of late.
Since August 25, the Nationals trade acquisition has batted .322 (29-for-90) with a .522 slugging percentage and 20 RBI in just 27 games. He has supported the “Kurt Klutch” nickname he earned at Cal State Fullerton, where his two-out, RBI-single in the bottom of the seventh inning led the Titans to a 3-2 victory and College World Series title in 2004.
While the intentional walk can serve many purposes in the game, a two-out intentional walk means only one thing from the opposing manager: “I’ll take my chances against you.” Better not to do so facing a guy with a “Klutch” nickname. Suzuki ripped a two-run double to the base of the fence in left-center, providing the decisive blow.
The culmination of the two swings have left the Nationals on the brink of their first-ever National League East title which they could wrap up as soon as today. They need a single win (or Atlanta loss) to make it official here, fittingly, on the home field of the defending World Series Champions.
The takeaway moment from Wednesday night’s Nationals-Phillies tilt in Philadelphia will undoubtedly be Jayson Werth’s final at-bat in the top of the ninth. After electing not to throw a foul ball that had made its way to him in the batter’s circle into the crowd, Werth instead paused and lobbed it into the Washington dugout. That sparked a reign of boos from the half-empty Citizen’s Bank Park, easily the most passionate reaction of the entire evening. After Danny Espinosa struck out, leaving runners at the corners with two outs for Werth, the crowd rose to a fever pitch as their former player dug into the batter’s box.
The Phillies had fallen behind early, thanks to a trio of Washington home runs from Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki’s second-inning blast, the Nationals third in their first eight batters of the game, gave Washington 183 home runs on the season, as the club continued to distance itself from the previous franchise record of 178 set back in 2000 in Montreal. It also gave them a 5-0 lead at which the home team slowly chipped away. After single runs in the seventh and eighth innings, the advantage stood at just 5-4 in the top of the ninth as Werth dug in.
He lunged at the first pitch off the outside corner, fouling it away for strike one. He then got buzzed on a fastball up and in from Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus, to the rave reviews of everyone in the stands wearing a P on their foreheads. Werth then uncharacteristically chased a breaking ball off the plate away, swinging through it for strike two as the crowd again roared its collective approval. Lost in the drama of the moment, Kurt Suzuki took off on the next pitch, ball two, stealing second without a throw. The play would prove enormous, as Werth served De Fratus’ next offering straight past the pitcher, the ball bounding past a helpless Jimmy Rollins into center field, sucking the air out of the ballpark and plating both runners to open up a 7-4 advantage.
“That’s a big-time lineup over there,” said Werth of the Phillies, preferring to focus on the significance of the moment within the game rather than the fanfare surrounding it. “To push a couple across to extend the lead at this point in time in the season, emotions are running high, and I was just happy to get the runs across.”
Harper would then drive Werth home on an RBI-triple to provide the final margin, but Jayson’s hit – and the crowd’s reaction to it – provided the highest drama of the evening. They also overshadowed the story that is quietly chugging along, that of John Lannan’s reemergence.
If it weren’t for a throwing error in the third and a bit of bad luck in the fourth, the Nationals lefty may well have carried a shutout into the sixth inning. As it was, he allowed just two runs on five hits in 5.1 innings of work to improve to 4-0 in his five starts since returning to the Washington rotation. And while every game in a pennant race is important, Lannan continues to find himself on some of the biggest stages, tasked with the challenge of leading the Nationals to victory when they need it most.
“I’ve been in that situation here so many times and come up short,” he explained after the game, acknowledging some his own personal struggles pitching in Philly. “I told myself I wouldn’t do that again.”
He described the game as an adrenaline rush from the first inning on, but clearly something about that pressure seems to bring out the best in his game.
“If you don’t want the ball in those situations, you’re in the wrong game.”
It’s only appropriate, on this last day of summer, that we can officially begin to discuss postseason baseball in Washington D.C. no longer as a “likelihood” or a “probability,” but as a reality. That’s the thing about the baseball season – a hot start is great, like the one the Nationals stormed out to by winning 10 of their first 14 games, but in the scope of a six-month marathon, it means very little. All the excitement of holding down first place is fantastic fun, but it does not mean anything until this time of year. There are no cheaply won postseason spots in our sport, and only sustained success over the duration of the spring and summer will lead to those meaningful games in October that Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson and everyone around the organization have been talking about since Spring Training.
Yes, the National League East remains undecided, with a combination of eight Nationals wins and/or Braves losses still needed to determine the division crown. Beyond that lie the fight for home field advantage through the various rounds of the playoffs. These Nationals have taken nothing for granted so far this season, and you can be sure they won’t start now. Nevertheless, one indelible fact remains: there will be postseason baseball in our Nation’s Capital for the first time in 79 years.
“What’s the big deal?” an exuberant Johnson jokingly questioned of the press corps, as fans watching his post-game press conference in the adjoining Lexus Presidents Club cheered his arrival.
The Nationals almost clinched their postseason spot Wednesday night in dramatic, surprising fashion, coming from nowhere to overcome a six-run, eighth-inning deficit, only to fall to the Dodgers, 7-6 in the ninth. While that would have been a game for the ages, long remembered by those who stuck it out to the end, it would have supported the script that is often preached, but not necessarily accurate, about this year’s Washington club, that all of this sudden success is a surprise. In actuality, it is the culmination of years of building the right way, from the ground up, and simply watching the pieces come together at the Major League level all at once. In a sense, it was much more fitting that the history was made thanks to a well-pitched, well-defended game, trademarks of a team that Washington fans have fallen in love with this season.
Drew Storen gave the game and the fans their endearing moment to cherish, as he faced the daunting middle of the Dodgers lineup – Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez – holding a three-run lead in the ninth. The cushion would turn out to be more than enough. Storen painted a perfect, outside corner fastball to freeze Kemp, Wednesday night’s hero. He then handcuffed Gonzalez, the powerful lefty’s bat waving helplessly over a disappearing changeup. Finally, he blew away Nationals nemesis Hanley Ramirez – who owned a career .339 (147-for-433) mark with 27 home runs against the Nats coming into the at-bat – on a nasty slider to end it, pounding his mitt once and high-fiving catcher Kurt Suzuki in celebration.
“I didn’t even think about it until I saw it on the scoreboard afterwards,” said Storen of the clinching moment. “I was just having fun. The crowd was real into it. If you’re not out there having fun in that situation, you shouldn’t be out there.”
And though Storen provided the coup de gras, seemingly everyone chipped in. Ryan Zimmerman opened the scoring with a booming double to the left-center field gap, scoring Bryce Harper in the third inning. Danny Espinosa had an RBI-double of his own, and came in to score on a Suzuki sacrifice fly, the culmination of a hard-fought, professional at-bat. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth each had a pair of hits, with the shortstop stealing one bag and the outfielder swiping a pair. As it has been all year with this team, you never know who the hero will be, and there were many of them Thursday night.
Ross Detwiler, meanwhile, continued to impress, and continued to show why this team has a real chance to make a deep October run. With six nearly flawless innings, in which a solo home run and a pair of singles were the only bumps in an otherwise smooth road to his career-best 10th victory, he quieted the powerful Dodgers lineup to put the Nationals in position to clinch.
“It was great seeing all of them on their feet,” the lanky lefty said of the crowd. “It really gives you the chills a bit to see how into it all of them were.”
Detwiler has consistently gone about his business, and though he is sometimes overshadowed by his teammates, there is no hiding his 6-3 record and 2.76 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break. He also became the fourth Nationals starter to hit double-digits in wins on Thursday, with Edwin Jackson sitting on nine victories heading into his start tonight against Milwaukee.
Speaking of those pesky Brewers, they are suddenly hot, and have clawed their way back into the race for the second National League Wild Card spot. In fact, the final four series on the Nationals schedule – Milwaukee, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Philadelphia again – all bring teams fighting for every game, their postseason lives at stake. Each game will be its own challenge, as the Nats try to wrap up the division. Those battles begin again tonight. But for today, at least, allow yourself to soak in the reality.
This is happening.
Baseball and the events of September 11th, 2001 are inexorably bound by history. The only sport that was active in its regular season with games scheduled the day of the attacks, the entire sport was brought to a standstill for a full week. The charters set to carry Major League clubs around the country for the final month of the regular season were grounded by the FAA, and the nation sat shocked, confused, and perhaps not yet ready to watch baseball. But like all aspects of daily life, the game returned, and the delay in schedule led to more memorable moments in the sport’s history, like the creation of Mr. November – a nickname that could only have come about with the adjusted schedule – and the most exciting World Series of a generation.
Tonight, for the first time ever, the Nationals and Mets – the home teams of the two cities most directly affected by the national tragedy – will meet on the yearly observance of the events, at Citi Field in Flushing. Nationals Manager Davey Johnson spent the morning at Ground Zero, along with other athletes and dignitaries, helping raise money for Homes for Heroes, whose mission is to aid the military, police, firefighters and other first responders. Fittingly, the Nationals will wear their Patriotic Blue jerseys for the first time ever away from Nationals Park.
With the Citi Field ribbon board adorned with a “We Remember” banner around the ballpark, there will no doubt be a solemn feel to the crowd. However, in the streets of New York today, you wouldn’t have known it was different than any other day. Aside from the television and radio reports, tourists shopped and dined, locals commuted to and from work, and life marched on. And tonight, just as we did 11 years ago, we will pick up the bats and the balls and the gloves, and there will be baseball played all around the land. For many of us, the simple fact that this will be a normal Tuesday, one that will end with another edition of America’s pastime playing out in front of us, brings the most comforting sense of victory of all.
* * *
Before we look forward to tonight, here are a couple quick notes from Monday night’s series-opening win over the Mets. The Nationals took advantage of an early mistake, as just two pitches after Kurt Suzuki’s foul pop was dropped behind home plate in foul ground by Kelly Shoppach, he drilled a solo home run over the left-field wall to give Washington a lead it would never relinquish. The Nats played solid defense, Gio Gonzalez was slightly wild but still very effective, and the offense chipped in two more early home runs in a 5-1 finish.
Such seemingly easy victories can make losses like Sunday’s 8-0 shutout at the hands of Ricky Nolasco all the more frustrating, but sometimes those things happen in baseball. Certain pitchers own certain teams, just as certain batters own certain pitchers – it’s simply a part of the game. And the fact that the Nationals came right back from that lackluster performance to bury Collin McHugh with three homers in the game’s first four innings should be as reassuring as anything that Sunday’s game was the exception, not the norm. After all, the Nationals have now hit 27 home runs through their first 10 games of September, a full 11 more than the next closest team in the National League (Milwaukee, 16). Nats fans can also take comfort in the knowledge that Washington will not face Nolasco and the Marlins again until the 2013 season.
Tonight, R.A. Dickey will look to match Gonzalez’s 19 victories, matching up against Jordan Zimmermann. In a Mets season whose promise has gone by the wayside since the All-Star Break, Dickey’s stunning success in 2012 has given the New York fans something to cheer for down the stretch. He and Gonzalez are two of the front-runners for the National League Cy Young award, which will add some extra intrigue to how well the knuckleballer fares against the Nationals tonight, after Gonzalez handcuffed the Mets hitters on Monday.
The Nationals needed a spark. They needed something, or someone, to step forward and deliver a big hit to kick-start a struggling offense that had scored just six times in a five-game losing streak. Fittingly, they got it from a player aiming to right his own course this season, looking to finish the regular season strong.
Bryce Harper hit a pair of home runs Wednesday night to back Ross Detwiler and the bullpen in an 8-4 victory in Miami. His second home run (seen below) will be the one that most folks remember from the contest, as it made him just the third teenage center fielder ever to log a multi-home run performance, not to mention the fact that it drilled a seat in the sixth row of the upper deck in right-center field. But it was the rookie’s first dinger that opened the floodgates for the rest of the Nationals offense. After going 0-for-9 the first time through the lineup against Marlins rookie starter Jacob Turner, Harper’s blast (which followed a leadoff single by Jayson Werth) was the second hit in a string in which six of seven Nats hit safely.
During that sequence, Michael Morse scorched a ball that would have been a home run in nearly any other ballpark, settling for a triple. In all, six different Washington batters tallied multi-hit games, and catcher Kurt Suzuki checked in with his first home run in a Nationals uniform, padding the lead in the ninth inning. The offense finished the night with 14 hits, a needed jolt as the team gained a game back from the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. Washington leads the division by 5.0 as they open an 11-game homestand with four games against the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals Thursday night in D.C.
With 33 games remaining in the regular season, 21 of them right here on the shores of the Anacostia, it will be interesting to see which players step forward to carry the Nationals to the finish line. Adam LaRoche came up huge in April and May with much of the heart of the lineup injured. Ryan Zimmerman and Morse each went on tears in June and July to keep the team atop the division. And recently, Werth has been on fire since returning from his broken wrist to carry the load. With seven games against the Cardinals, three against the newly revamped Dodgers and three more with Atlanta still to play, Washington will need its big bats to step up once again. If Wednesday night was any indication, this team looks ready to get after it down the home stretch.