By James Kenney
The Nationals won their third straight series, not including a four game split with the Miami Marlins earlier in May, with an 8-2 rout of the Fish. Behind yet another near-flawless outing from Max Scherzer and previously quiet bats coming alive, the Nats improved to 27-17 and maintained their hold on first place in the competitive NL East. Washington looks to capitalize on these wins and use the momentum in a key series against the second place New York Mets starting Monday.
The scoring affair opened with outfielder Bryce Harper’s sacrifice fly to center field, plating fellow outfielder Ben Revere in the first inning after Revere swiped his first of two bases on the day.
Revere scored again in the third inning, his second run on the day, on a sharply, well placed ball hit by second baseman Daniel Murphy that skirted over second base to fellow infielder Derek Dietrich. Later in the third, offensively surging third baseman Anthony Rendon floated a double just feet from the left field foul line scoring Murphy.
Along with Rendon, infielder Danny Espinosa continued his recent offensive hot streak after starting slowly at the plate with a 2-2 rip to center in the top of the sixth inning. This 2-strike hit was only Espinosa’s third hit from the right side over the course of this season. With the infield pulled in to account for the runner at third, Revere’s bat again showed revitalized life later in the sixth inning with a ball tattooed by Marlins first baseman Justin Bour. Both backstop Wilson Ramos and Espinosa scored, bringing the score to 6-0.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Scherzer continued to show problems with the long ball and surrendered a two-run, second deck shot to Bour. Aside from this blemish, Scherzer continued to show All Star-caliber stuff, striking out eight over eight innings of work.
In the top of the ninth, Rendon collected his second of two hits on the afternoon with a triple scorched to right field. Harper and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman scored, giving the Nats a six run lead.
Scherzer continued his strong work, giving up six hits and two earned runs. His ERA continued its drop and is now at 3.80 on the season. The bullpen enjoyed both Scherzer’s deep outing and the large run cushion, as relievers Oliver Perez and Blake Treinen worked the ninth. None of the Nats pitchers walked a batter on the day.
Despite the impressive outing by Scherzer and bats continuing to heat up after cold starts, the Nats will look to improve some baserunning woes. Revere stole two important bases, but Espinosa was picked off at first and Harper was caught stealing and picked off as well. The Nats will need to be smarter on the bases as baserunners will be hard to come by in the next series against the hard-throwing Mets.
The Nats take on the Mets to start a three game series and seven game home stand on tonight at 7 p.m.