The Nationals have started to play some good baseball again, and this time, with an edge.
Maybe they call it "Beast Mode." You have seen the Nationals' first baseman Michael Morse and his now-famous t-shirt during MASN's Nats Xtra postgame show interviews, haven't you? If not, here it is.
It gained popularity thanks to the outstanding play of Morse, who has continued to mash the ball, hitting his 18th homer of the season, as part of a three-dinger barrage against Braves pitching in Tuesday's 9-3 runaway.
Teammates wear the shirts around the clubhouse, for workouts and at batting practice. And with the way the Nationals are playing right now, it appears to have become the Nationals' rallying call for the way they want to be on the field.
Physical, aggressive baseball is being played this week at Nationals Park. After limping through the start of the homestand, the Nats have got something going again.
Physical play by the newest National, Jonny Gomes, taking out Braves catcher David Ross on a throw home. Gomes was safe and would have been safe because Ross caught the throw in front of home plate. But Gomes made sure Ross wouldn't make the play by sliding into him and touching home plate. It was a tough and rough baseball play. Gomes looks the part with the long goatee and a V-shaped mohawk.
Jayson Werth goes first base to third base on almost every hit-and-run. Many times he tags up at second base and gets to third on fly ball outs, even when they aren't hit that deep. He came home on a sac fly for the Nationals first run and would not have shied away from Ross had the throw been on target.
Guys like Werth, Rick Ankiel, Danny Espinosa, Laynce Nix, Ian Desmond and Morse play baseball not to avoid contact, but to seek it out. This is the kind of team the Nationals are becoming. Pants are ripped up, there is mud and clay over all their white uniforms after nine innings with these guys.
The pitching staff is feeding off the "beast mode" mentality. John Lannan got stronger after a shaky second and third frames. He struck out the side in the sixth inning. Lannan had walked 12 hitters his last three starts. Tuesday he walked one.
Henry Rodriguez came on and was hitting 100 mph and found his location on two strike pitches, something that had been alluding him in recent outings.
I felt it last season when I walked through the Reds clubhouse in Cincinnati while working the sidelines for MASN.
A certain toughness and never-say-die attitude permeated from each player. They were respectful and greeted you politely. But they definitely gave off the feeling that they felt they were better than the team the were playing and they were going to prove that on the field.
Joey Votto, Gomes and Johnny Cueto displayed this confidence almost on their sleeves. I get that sense with Gomes now that he is a National and Tuesday's collision at the plate is an example of the Nationals "beast mode" in full effect.