The Nationals’ offense has rewarded its starting pitching with a couple of big offensive performances to begin a series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park.
Washington was down 6-1 in the fifth inning Tuesday, and erupted for seven runs to win, 8-6. Then, the Nationals crushed four home runs, two by red-hot Michael Morse, in a 10-0 shellacking of the Cardinals on Wednesday.
It was a well-deserved reward for Livan Hernandez (4-8), who threw his 50th complete game and his ninth career shutout, allowing the Cardinals three hits and no walks and six strikeouts.
Morse set the tone early with a solo shot off of Cardinals starter Kyle McClellan for a 1-0 lead. He added a ground rule double and then a monstrous (or as I tweeted, a “Morse-strous”) two-run homer in the seventh.
The Nationals have outscored the Cardinals 17-0 since the fifth inning Tuesday.
“We are having some good at-bats,” Morse said. “The offense is coming around. Especially when (Livo) is out there pitching a tremendous game, your focus gets even more crisp right there. We did have a lot of patience today. Guys got their pitches and didn’t miss it.”
Espinosa took the count to 2-2 before he hit his 11th homer of the season. Espinosa said patience at the plate has been key, but the Nationals could go after a first pitch if it was a good one.
“We are being patient, but I think it is more just being (selectively) aggressive,” Espinosa said. “You want to go and get your pitch. You can be aggressive and go up and swing and the first couple of pitches. But you don’t want to swing at anything. You want to swing at a good pitch.”
Ryan Zimmerman added another RBI hit in his second game back after abdominal surgery. Espinosa said having a leader like Zimmerman back has rubbed off on all the players on the field.
“We have good hitters, but he has been here his whole career,” Espinosa said. “Just to have him back, the presence he gives us in the clubhouse and on the field (is crucial). Maybe we are getting better pitches, I don’t know. Maybe we are just not missing the pitches that we do get. There is obviously a great presence with him around.”