Results tagged ‘ Tyler Moore ’

Preaching Patience

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Following Tuesday night’s 8-1 loss in Atlanta, Ian Desmond spoke up, saying that the team needed to start playing more cohesively, that each player needed to stop trying to win all by themselves. While Desmond brushes off the idea of being a clubhouse leader, per se, his solid play on the field has helped support his ever-growing role as a vocal presence on the team.

Perhaps as a result, on Wednesday, Davey Johnson granted Desmond an opportunity to do something he has never done before in the Major Leagues – hit in the cleanup spot. In the shortstop’s 487th career game, he will bat fourth for the first time, helping fill the void left by the ailing Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, who will sit out a second straight game with a hobbled ankle and hamstring.

Ian Desmond has collected 15 extra-base hits, third-most in the National League.

Ian Desmond has collected 15 extra-base hits, third-most in the National League.

Desmond will have a tough assignment, but in many ways a fitting one when it comes to Wednesday’s opposing starter. He and a different looking Nationals lineup have drawn the perfect opposing pitcher to test a team-first attitude in the softer-tossing, location-first game plan of Paul Maholm.

“Work the count, get in hitter’s counts, and when you get your pitch, don’t miss it,” said Steve Lombardozzi, who will hit and play second Wednesday night, about his approach. “I saw that a little bit from his last start. I’m not trying to do too much, just move the line.”

Lombardozzi wasn’t the only one studying video of Maholm’s last outing, in which he struggled against the Tigers. Tyler Moore, earning his second straight start in left field following a double and the Nationals lone run scored Tuesday, is looking to help Washington replicate Detroit’s patient approach to make it pay off once again.

“I saw some of his last start, where he struggled against Detroit,” he explained. “You just have to be very, very patient. Just get a pitch in your zone that you want to hit. Don’t hit his pitch that he wants you to hit.”

That may seem simple enough, but when the offense isn’t fully clicking, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to do too much, of trying to hit the proverbial, mythical five-run homer. Just like Desmond, Moore recognized some of that leaking through in Washington’s approach Tuesday night.

“With Tim Hudson last night, he pitched well, but we chased some balls out of the zone,” he explained, but was quick to take personal accountability for the overaggressive approach. “I’m as guilty as anybody. You’ve just got to preach it and preach it and get the job done so we can get some runners on base.”

Just like Desmond said – if everyone does simply what they are capable of, perhaps the Nationals can find a win over both Paul Maholm and Atlanta, something that has been elusive so far this season.

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Excitement in the Air

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Hello everyone.

If you are reading this blog, chances are that I don’t have to remind you that Opening Day is less than a week away. I’m pumped up for the season to get started, and I know all of you Nats fans are also. During my nearly month-long stay in Viera, I spoke with hundreds of our fans. The common theme down there was unbridled enthusiasm.

Now I am back here in D.C. and the messaging is identical.

Is this is the most anticipated season in D.C. sports history? While this is not for me to say, I have to think it is at the very least on a short list.

  • Friday’s 2:05 p.m. exhibition game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park will feature a Jordan Zimmermann-Andy Pettitte pitching matchup. And here’s hoping that future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter’s ankle allows him to play, not only Friday, but all season.
  • Interesting to hear that Davey plans to really split time behind the plate between Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki. Both are wildly popular in the clubhouse and among the pitching staffs. I think Davey’s direction here tells us that he is quite confident in Wilson’s knee and overall fitness.
  • Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi and Roger Bernadina represent perhaps the finest bench in MLB. I know that Davey views all four as talents capable of starting. And this does not include the backup catcher, Ramos or Suzuki.
  • If you have not picked up on this yet, … Micah Owings can really HIT. I really enjoyed getting to know Micah during spring training.
  • Gazing at the schedule, it is still strange to see that we’ll be hosting the Chicago White Sox for three games from April 9-11. I keep reminding myself that this new day and age of interleague play will take some getting used to. It will also be fun to see the Detroit Tigers visit D.C. for a two-game set, May 7-8.
  • More than a few fans mentioned they are pumped to see William Howard Taft (Bill) and Teddy interact. This historically fiery relationship is one to keep an eye on all summer. I understand there has been a lot of trash talking already between the two already. Best of luck to Bill on his upcoming racing debut.
  • I’d be remiss if I did not thank and wish Kristina Akra, formerly of MASN, all the best on her new career path. For those that do not know, Kristina recently accepted a new job with the MLB Network. She will thrive there, but at the same time, her warm smile and enthusiasm will be missed here with the ballclub.
  • Sports Illustrated, one of the preeminent publications in our industry, came out today with their prediction of the Nationals as World Series favorites. While I’m thrilled about their optimism, as well as that of all others (like ESPN The Magazine) who have tabbed us to be successful this year, I know there is much work to be done before we get to any of that. So I’ll just echo Davey’s remarks today: “It’s better than being picked to come in last!”

See you all on Friday…

The Late Additions

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While this year’s Washington roster seems mostly set, it is important not to underestimate the potential impact of Non-Roster Invitees on the structure of the club that will break camp at the end of March. Sandy Leon, Carlos Maldonado, Rick Ankiel, Corey Brown and Brett Carroll all played small roles for the Nationals in 2012, and Chad Tracy – yes that Chad Tracy – was himself an NRI last year. Tracy staked his claim as one of the best pinch-hitters in the game and earned a contract extension for 2013 near the end of last season.

The Nationals announced three more additions to their list of Major League Spring Training Non-Roster Invitees this week, adding Jeremy Accardo, Micah Owings and Chris Snyder. All three have interesting storylines or ties to the organization, but perhaps none is more compelling than that of Owings, who came to terms with Washington on Wednesday.

Owings has always been known for his bat, and will report to Viera as a position player.

Owings has always been known for his bat, and will report to Viera as a position player.

For those unfamiliar with his Major League exploits, Owings is most well known as one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball over the past six seasons. While his career ledger on the mound is 32-33 with a 4.86 ERA in 138 appearances (68 starts), he has batted .283 (58-for-205) with an eye-popping .503 slugging percentage. To put that in perspective, only Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Tyler Moore (and Jhonatan Solano, in limited time) posted a higher slugging mark for the Nats last season than Owings’ career line.

His first season was his best, as he posted a .333/.349/.683 line to win the National League’s Silver Slugger Award in 2007, the same hardware Stephen Strasburg laid claim to last year. However, the 30-year-old Owings has shown enough continued promise at the plate that he will now attempt the same transformation as former National Rick Ankiel, moving from the mound to become a hitter.

“He’s worn all of the opposing clubs out at one point or another,” said Nationals Assistant General Manager Bryan Minniti of Owings. “So if you’ve seen the guy swing the bat the last couple of years, you’re intrigued. He’s a decent athlete as well.”

As you may remember, Ankiel had a pair of very strong seasons in his first two years after making the switch, hitting 36 home runs and driving in 110 over 167 games, posting a very comparable line to that of Owings, batting .270 with a .515 slugging percentage. Like Ankiel in 2007, Owings plans to focus entirely on his future as a hitter from here on out.

“We’re going to give him a go as a position player and see what happens,” explained Minniti. “We’re committed to it. He’s committed to it. We’ve got a couple of people here who know him from the past, including our hitting coordinator Rick Schu.”

Snyder, another former Diamondback, has experience catching Dan Haren.

Snyder, another former Diamondback, has experience catching Dan Haren.

Of course, just as he knows Chad Tracy (another player he drafted with Arizona) going into last year, Nationals EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo is very familiar with Owings. He was in charge of the Diamondbacks’ drafts when Arizona selected the Gainesville, Georgia native in the third round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. Likewise, Rizzo was at the helm of the draft when his former organization selected Snyder back in 2002, the catcher the Nationals acquired earlier this week.

Snyder brings veteran depth with a decent eye (with a career on-base percentage 104 points above his batting average) and a little pop (hitting double digit home runs three times) to the Washington catching corps. The former Diamondback, Pirate and Astro provides a little extra insurance behind the plate as Wilson Ramos completes his rehab process heading into Spring Training.

“We like to go to camp with the proper amount of catching, and we felt like we wanted to add one more,” said Minniti of the Snyder addition. “We’ve got a couple of young guys that are very capable, but it just gives us a little more flexibility, having a good veteran to compete.”

A right-handed reliever, Accardo is the only one of the late additions who hasn’t played previously under Rizzo. However, he provides the Nationals with an interesting statistical note, as the fourth pitcher entering camp with a season of at least 30 saves under his belt in his career. While the former Blue Jay and Giant accomplished that feat back in 2007, he nevertheless merits inclusion with Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano and Drew Storen as the only such foursome reporting to a Major League camp this year.

The Next Four Years

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Here at Curly W Live, we rarely – if ever – discuss politics, despite residing at the epicenter of our nation’s government. We’re far more likely to engage with you in a debate on the latest exploits of George, Tom, Abe or Teddy than any sitting President. But as The District and the country as a whole catches its collective breath following Inauguration Weekend, there is no time better than the present to take inventory of the transformation of our national pastime here in the Nation’s Capital since the last inauguration.

Four years ago, a 23-year-old Gio Gonzalez had just been traded – from the Chicago White Sox to the Oakland Athletics. Stephen Strasburg was halfway through his junior year at San Diego State. And a 16-year-old Bryce Harper had enrolled at Southern Nevada College, but had yet to see a pitch from anyone other than a high schooler.

In 2012, the Postseason went from a distant fantasy to a tangible reality.

In 2012, the Postseason went from a distant fantasy to a tangible reality.

My, how far we’ve come.

The Nationals became the first team to add 10 or more wins in three consecutive seasons over a span that did not include any strike-shortened campaigns. Coming off their 59 victories in 2009, they improved to 69 in 2010, 80 in 2011 and a Major League-best 98 last year.

Given the previous franchise high-water mark of 81-81 during their inaugural campaign, any winning season at all in 2012 would have marked the best in the franchise’s annals. Needless to say, the Nationals exceeded everyone’s projections, except perhaps for skipper Davey Johnson, who guaranteed a playoff berth all the way back in Spring Training.

But the past was all about potential. The present and future are about raised expectations.

Rafael Soriano is the latest addition to an already formidable Nationals club.

Rafael Soriano is the latest addition to an already formidable Nationals club.

Now, Washington has added defensive wizard and leadoff man Denard Span, the most tested, capable fifth starter in the league in Dan Haren, and one of the game’s premier closers in Rafael Soriano. One could make the argument that each of the Nationals units – the starting rotation, bullpen, catching corps, infield, outfield and bench – rank among the best in the game.

Johnson returns for his second term with a core group of rising stars, many of which are just entering their prime. In fact, 10 players – Danny Espinosa, Gonzalez, Harper, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore, Drew Storen, Strasburg, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Jordan Zimmermann – are under team control through at least 2016: four more years.

The last four years of Nationals baseball have brought plenty of change. The next four promise an equal amount of hope.

But whether you identify as red or blue, as long as you’re rocking the Curly W, you’re wearing our colors. And regardless of your interest or involvement in politics, everyone can agree on one self-evident truth: with pitchers and catchers reporting for the 2013 season in just 20 days, it’s good to be a Washington Nationals fan.

2012 Player Review: Tyler Moore

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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 look at another of Washington’s impressive rookies from 2012, Tyler Moore.

Amidst the impressive crop of Nationals rookies, perhaps none rose as suddenly into the collective fan consciousness from 2011 to 2012 as Tyler Moore. The soft-spoken Mississippi State product let his bat do the talking throughout his two prior seasons in the minors, where he was one of just two players to hit 30 or more home runs in back-to-back seasons. Despite largely coming off the bench for the Nationals in 2012, Moore showed that power streak was no fluke by blasting 10 roundtrippers in only 156 at-bats. Moore also had nine longballs in just 101 Triple-A at-bats over his two stints with the Syracuse Chiefs last year, giving him a combined home run rate of one per 13.5 at-bats, better than either of his previous two seasons (16.7, 16.2).

Tyler Moore swung Game 1 of the NLDS with this clutch pinch-hit.

Tyler Moore swung Game 1 of the NLDS with this clutch pinch-hit.

Moore’s Major League call-up was somewhat overshadowed. After all, Bryce Harper’s debut came less than 24 hours earlier, and Moore’s initial showing wasn’t his strongest, as he managed just three singles in 19 at-bats, striking out seven times without a walk before he was sent back to Triple-A. But in his second showing, Moore more than made up for his slow start. In his fourth game back with Washington, the 25-year-old blasted his first two Major League home runs, driving in five to key a 6-2 victory in Toronto that capped the Nats 6-0 road trip. He stuck in the Majors, and went on to post a .277/.349/.562 line with 19 of his 38 hits going for extra bases (nine 2B, 10 HR) following his second call-up. Moore’s bat, combined with his ability to play first base and his growth in left field made him a versatile option off of Davey Johnson’s bench as a member of the “Goon Squad.”

A former 16th-round draft choice, Moore received exactly one Postseason at-bat, and made the most of it. Washington trailed St. Louis 3-2 with two outs in the top of the eighth inning of Game 1 of the NLDS, but had Michael Morse at third and Ian Desmond at second. Johnson called upon Chad Tracy to pinch-hit, prompting Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to counter with his lone lefty reliever, Marc Rzepczynski. Davey re-countered with Moore, a righty. The rookie made Matheny pay for his strategy, driving a 2-2 fastball off the outside corner the opposite way for what would prove to be the game-winning, two-run single.

The 6’2”, 215-pound Moore will not be arbitration eligible until 2015, and he remains under team control through the 2018 season.

Top 12 of ’12: #11 – Old School Walk-off

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Top1211When the Nationals and Giants matched up in early July in the Nation’s Capital, the series promised to be a stiff test for Washington, facing San Francisco pitchers Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain. But after dispatching the first two, handing each their worst loss of the season, the Nationals needed only to beat Cain – who had thrown a perfect game just four starts earlier – to complete the sweep. The teams both donned 1924-era jerseys that night, the fifth of July, in commemoration of the 1924 World Series between Washington and the then-New York Giants, which the Senators had won in dramatic fashion, erasing a late deficit and eventually taking the series in the bottom of the 12th of Game 7.

Cain was in command, as the Giants built a 5-1 advantage entering the bottom of the seventh. But Washington began chipping away, riding back-to-back solo shots from Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa and a two-out, RBI-double from Bryce Harper in the seventh to cut the deficit to a single run. The score remained 5-4 until the rookie brigade took over in the ninth, with Tyler Moore doubling, Steve Lombardozzi laying down a sacrifice and reaching on an ensuing error, and Harper coming through again with an RBI-single to tie it up. After an intentional walk and a force at home, Adam LaRoche batted with the bases loaded and one out. He chopped a ball towards the hole at second, where Ryan Theriot fielded the ball and threw to second base for the force out. Brandon Crawford tried to relay the ball to first base to complete the double play, but his throw short-hopped Brandon Belt at first and got away, as Harper crossed the plate with the winning run. Just like 1924, Washington had come from behind for a thrilling, walk-off win.

Moment #12 – Ramos Flies

What to Watch For: NLDS Game 2

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Washington Nationals (1-0) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (0-1)

RHP Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 2.94) vs. LHP Jaime Garcia (7-7, 3.92)

Trailing 2-1 into the top of the eighth inning, the Nationals got a two-out, two-strike, two-run pinch-single from Tyler Moore to flip the script and steal a Game 1 victory in St. Louis. Washington will send right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to the hill this afternoon in Game 2 against Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

From Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche on the importance of Sunday’s Game 1 win:

“Game 1 in a short series like this is huge. I think more than anything because now for the Cardinals, since we won Game 1, this is kind of a must-win.”

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. Zimmermann RHP

IT HAS BEEN A WHILE

Entering the 2012 postseason, a big league club from Washington last won a postseason game on October 5, 1933 (79 years ago), when the AL Nationals topped the New York Giants, 4-0, at Griffith Stadium and southpaw Earl Whitehill tossed a five-hitter. Davey Johnson’s last postseason win came as the Orioles doubled up the Indians, 4-2, in Game 5 on October 13, 1997 (15 years ago).

WERTH NOTING

Jayson Werth’s 13 career home runs in 45 career postseason contests are tied for fifth among active players with Chipper Jones (13 in 93 games) and Alex Rodriguez (13 in 68 games). Only Derek Jeter (20 home runs, 153 games), Albert Pujols (18 in 74 games), Jim Thome (17 in 68 games) and Nelson Cruz (14 in 34 games) have more. In fact, in 44 career postseason games, Werth has more homers than the following October legends: Yogi Berra (12 home runs in 75 games), David Ortiz (12 in 75 games), Duke Snider (11 in 36 games), Johnny Bench (10 in 45 games), Frank Robinson (10 in 35 games), Chase Utley (10 in 46 games) and Barry Bonds (nine in 48 games).

D.C.’S POSTSEASON LEDGER

It’s well known that the Nation’s Capital has one MLB World Championship (‘24) on its resume. Washington, D.C. owns an all-time record of 9-11 in the postseason.

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Another Opening Day

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Stop us if this sounds familiar.

The Washington Nationals, trailing a tight, low-scoring game by one run in the top of the eighth inning, need a clutch hit late. This is, after all, their first time in such a position, with newfound expectations heaped on their collective backs, the attention of the sport and the nation at large turned to them for the first time in their young history. They need to find a way, through a raucous road crowd in one of baseball’s historic cities, to shut out the noise, the emotion, and find a way to win. Washington rides a three-hit day from Ian Desmond and a clutch hit late off the bench to a one-run road victory. It is Opening Day, April 5 in Chicago, and the Nationals have just beaten the Cubs to start the season.

Tyler Moore silenced the Game 1 crowd of more than 47,000 in St. Louis.

Six months and two days later, Washington began its “second season,” the postseason, in remarkably similar fashion. The Nationals use another three-hit game from Desmond and a two-out, two-strike, two-run pinch-single – the very definition of clutch – from rookie Tyler Moore to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One of the National League Division Series. Of course, it was Chad Tracy who delivered the big blow on Opening Day, with his ninth-inning double. On Sunday afternoon, Tracy again played a role, despite never even crossing the lines onto the field of play. His announcement as the pinch-hitter for Ryan Mattheus (more on him later) in the top of the eighth prompted Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny to pull setup man Mitchell Boggs in favor of his lone lefty reliever, Mark Rzepczynski. Davey Johnson countered by pinch-hitting Moore, and the chess game continued. Matheny opted against a second pitching change, leaving right-handed closer Jason Motte in the ‘pen. Moore delivered. Checkmate.

Asked if it was the biggest hit in his career, Moore, the fresh-faced 25 year-old tucked into his stock, grey postseason sweatshirt, kept it simple.

“Uh, yeah,” he laughed.

However, none of those events would have transpired if not for the tremendous, history-making postseason debut of Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus. Already leading 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, St. Louis had loaded the bases with nobody out on an error, a single and a walk against Craig Stammen, prompting Johnson to go to his ground ball specialist. Even he couldn’t have imagined things would work out quite so well.

In a game in which the Cardinals seemed to constantly be on the verge of breaking out, Mattheus delivered in the biggest spot. For starters, he got cleanup man Allen Craig – a .400 hitter (50-for-125) with 74 RBI with RISP during the regular season – to hit the first pitch on the ground to shortstop, Desmond throwing home for the first out of the inning, the bases remaining loaded. Then, on the very next pitch, he induced an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play off the bat of 2012 All-Star Yadier Molina, becoming the first pitcher in the history of postseason play to record all three outs in an inning on just two pitches.

Heroes Moore (left) and Desmond enjoy the spoils of victory at the post-game press conference.

“I sold out to the ground ball,” he said with a smile after the nail-biting victory. “I’ve done it all year, that’s been my MO to get ground balls. Look at my numbers – I don’t punch very many guys out. So I’m not going to go in there and try to strike out the side.”

To call Mattheus an unknown factor would be an understatement. As the official scorer called out the afternoon’s final totals over the public address system in the press box, he mispronounced the reliever’s name, calling him “Math-A-us” rather than “Matthews,” though the right-hander surely could care less. He had just, after all, recorded the three biggest out of his career.

“Absolutely, no question about it,” Mattheus agreed when asked if Sunday’s performance topped his career highlights. “I don’t think we care if we stole it. Any one we can get is a win, no matter how we get it.”

Desmond had a different view of the outcome.

“I don’t think we stole it,” he said. “I think we earned it.”

Indeed, the Nationals earned it through a mix of quality pitching from the whole staff, combined with a couple of big hits in key spots. As anyone who has followed the team this year knows, that should come as no surprise.

“That’s really been the formula,” explained Desmond. “Just some timely hitting and some really, really good pitching.”

On that much, he and Mattheus agreed.

“I think that’s how this team’s been the whole year,” said Mattheus, reflecting back to Opening Day. “Some nights we pitch, some nights we hit. We try not to make too much of these games. Hopefully we can treat them like games in April. That was the most exciting day in my career so far, Opening Day, but this has to trump that.”

What to Watch For: 9/12

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Washington Nationals (88-54) vs. New York Mets (65-77)

LHP John Lannan (2-0, 3.46) vs. RHP Matt Harvey (3-4, 3.04)

The Nationals continued their winning ways Tuesday night, as Tyler Moore’s seventh-inning, pinch-hit, two-run home run turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead and an eventual 5-3 Washington victory. New York native John Lannan will make his first start since his September recall as the Nationals look for a three-game sweep of the Mets at Citi Field to open the road trip.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Bernadina LF

7. Suzuki C

8. Lombardozzi 2B

9. Lannan LHP

GREAT 8

With another RBI on Tuesday at Citi Field, Ryan Zimmerman has now plated at least one RBI in eight consecutive contests. That is the longest such streak posted by a Nationals player since the club landed in D.C. in 2005. Zimmerman is 21-for-65 (.323) with five home runs and 16 RBI during his 15-game hitting streak, which is tied with Kansas City’s Salvador Perez for the longest current streak in MLB.

LANNAN’S CANNON

John Lannan, a native of Long Beach, NY and a Chaminade High School graduate, will take on the Mets in his third start of the season for the Nationals. He is 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA in his two starts, with his last one coming August 3 in a 7-4 victory over the Miami Marlins. In his final two starts for Triple-A Syracuse, Lannan tossed complete-game shutouts August 25 at Gwinnett and August 30at Charlotte. Lannan has not pitched at Citi Field since earning the win there on April 10, 2010.

HARPER GETTING CLOSE TO THE HAMMER

After going 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI last night vs. New York, Bryce Harper now has 11 RBI against the Mets this season, the most by a rookie against the Mets since former National Josh Willingham posted 12 in 2006 as a member of the Florida Marlins.

DATE IN DC BASEBALL

September 12, 1962: At Memorial Stadium, 27 year-old Senator fireballer Tom Cheney sets a major league mark for K’s in a single game by striking out 21 batters in complete-game, 16-inning, 2-1 victory over the Orioles.

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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.

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