Game #50: Strasburg Shines, Bats Open Up
The Nationals took on their NL East division rival the Philadelphia Phillies in a rubber match. The Nationals offense opened up on Friday by scoring 5 runs, then scored 3 runs on Saturday, and 6 runs again on Sunday.
The Nationals offense has been quiet for most of the season so far, but has shown its head a little bit in the home series against the Phillies. On Sunday, the Nationals had a huge 7th inning against Phillies starter Cole Hamels. The frame started with singles from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. A sac bunt from Ian Desmond put runners on 2nd and 3rd. Hamels then went 3-0 on Moore, at which point the Phillies battery decided to put Moore on to load the bases with 1 out. With Jhonatan Solano at the plate, the Nationals catcher swung to weakly put the ball in play. Phillies 3rd basemen Michael Young threw home to try to nail Zimmerman and keep the game scoreless. The ball went right through the legs of Phillies catcher Humberto Quintero and allowed LaRoche to score also, while leaving Tyler Moore at 3rd and Solano at 1st. Cole Hamels was sent to the bench after the play. Steve Lombardozzi immediately doubled to score both Moore and Solano, then a fielding error by Delmon Young sent Lombardozzi to 3rd. By the time the frame ended, the Nationals were up 5-0 because of a double by Denard Span that scored the run from 3rd.
Strasburg was then sent to the mound to finish yet another 8th inning. Both Ben Revere and Quintero started the frame with singles, but Strasburg was able to dial up a double play with Revere going to 3rd with 2 outs. Jimmy Rollins, a rookie umpire, then called a balk on Strasburg to score Revere at 3rd. Fortunately, Rollins' lack of confidence in his ability to drive in the run was founded, as he immediately grounded out to end the frame. Strasburg had a dominant day, lowering his ERA to 2.49 and improving his record to 3-5. Strasburg went 8 innings, struck out 9, walked none, gave up 5 hits and allowed 1 run. It is also important to note that Hamels had a good day, but suffered from 3 errors behind him and little offensive help. He went 6.1 innings struck out 6, walked 1, and allowed 3 earned runs.
The Nationals were able to get a run back when LaRoche doubled and Desmond grounded out to move him over to 3rd. Moore then singled to drive LaRoche in. The Nationals were unable to add on any additional runs, but had all they needed at that point. Tyler Clippard then came on in relief of Stephen Strasburg in the 9th and recorded a scoreless frame to bring the Nationals record to 26-24 on the season.
The Nationals were able to take 2 of 3 from the Phillies in the series and scored 5 runs or more in both wins. Friday, the Nationals won 5-3, lost on Saturday 3-5, then won Sunday 6-1. The lineup consistency is likely the key, as Harper has seen regular time behind Span in the 2 spot and the offense is able to cash in better as a result. The Nationals now will play the Orioles in a home and home series with 2 games at Nationals Park and 2 at Camden Yards.