On July 3rd, the Nats finished a four game series with the visiting Cincinnati Reds. Game 4 saw the return of Stephen Strasburg from the Disabled List; in his return, he threw 6.2 innings of no-hit ball. Due to fatigue concerns after coming off the DL, Strasburg was lifted early and the no-hit bid was lost in the top of the eighth inning. Regardless, Strasburg and the bullpen limited the Reds to one run on three hits while the Nats scored 12 runs on 15 hits. The offensive onslaught was marked by shortstop Danny Espinosa’s two homeruns, hitting his second grand slam of the series, and six RBI.
On Independence Day, the Nationals welcomed the Milwaukee Brewers for a three game stand. Monday’s game featured ace Max Scherzer and Junior Guerra. Both were masterful, striking out seven over seven innings and 7.1 innings, respectively. The early matinee in our nation’s capital was ruined by Scherzer’s continued struggles with the homerun, as Martin Moldonado’s solo shot lifted the Brewers over the Nats, 1-0.
Game 2 of the series on July 5th saw another solid pitching performance from the Brewers. Starter Zach Davies held the Nats to one earned run over 6.2 innings. For the Nats, Gio Gonzalez had a rough outing, surrendering seven hits and three runs over six innings of work. The Nationals collected 12 hits on the evening but could not capitalize as they only had two runs cross the plate.
The Nats bounced back to salvage one win from the series on July 6th. The Nationals’ bats came alive quickly, scoring five runs in three innings mostly due to a towering, three run tater from Bryce Harper in the bottom of the first. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman and backup backstop Jose Lobaton each homered to earn Tanner Roark the win in the 7-4 contest.
The New York Mets welcomed the Nationals for a four game series before the All-Star Break beginning on Thursday. Both teams were scoring early and often. A Citi Field record eight homeruns were belted that night, but the most decisive long ball came from infielder Wilmer Flores, whose three-run shot lifted the Mets over Washington. The Mets moved within three games of the first place Nats after the 9-7 win.
The following day, the Nationals yet again had fireballer Noah Syndergaard’s number, as their four hits and three earned runs forced manager Terry Collins to pull Syndergaard after only 4.2 innings. Strasburg moved to 12-0, the first NL pitcher to do so in 104 years, after striking out nine. Washington won 3-1 behind Clint Robinson’s homerun.
Mets starter Logan Verrett suffered another loss at the hands of the Nats on the 9th after being out-dueled by Scherzer, who gave up only three hits and struck out nine, and feeling the continued wrath of Daniel Murphy. Murphy went 3-4 with a two-run bomb and four RBIs.
In the final game before the All-Star Break, Gonzalez had a strong start where he gave up only two runs in 5.2 innings of work. Murphy continued to haunt his old team with another homerun, his seventh against the Mets this season. Gonzalez earned the win and the Nats earned a six game cushion over both the Mets and Miami Marlins heading into the break.