Starting pitching carried the Nationals for most of the first half of the season, but if this team is going to go far in the postseason, the offense will have to also carry a heavy load.
On Tuesday, they looked like they could carry that burden with ease.
The Nationals tied a team record with six homers in one game, two from Adam LaRoche, and cruised past the overmatched Chicago Cubs 11-5.
“It feels good,” LaRoche said. “On top of that, having guys surrounding us in the lineup, the way they can swing the bat, everybody (is) clicking together. This is something I think going all the way back to spring training we knew we were capable of doing. Unfortunately, with some injuries and some streakiness, we haven’t had a six-, seven-game outburst like this where we have been able to go out and score seven, eight, 10 runs.”
LaRoche said this explosion felt like a reward for what their pitchers have accomplished the whole season.
“It is nice,” LaRoche said. “We owe this to our pitchers for bailing us out the first couple months.”
Ian Desmond, Jesus Flores, Tyler Moore and Ryan Zimmerman also connected against the Cubs, who had to employ five pitchers in the game’s first five innings.
“Everybody in our lineup is capable of going out of the ballpark,” said manager Davey Johnson. “We are in a pretty good place offensively. We have been building to it. I like the lineup. We haven’t had the lineup together very long.”
Johnson was pleased that he did not have to start Bryce Harper on Tuesday, and will give Jayson Werth the day off Wednesday, despite the objections of his veteran right fielder. After winning the first two games of the series, they have a little wiggle room and a deep bench to give guys some rest.
LaRoche said when the entire lineup hits like this, opposing pitchers have no place to go.
“It goes back to when you get a lot of guys going well, you see better pitches,” LaRoche said. “Everybody sees better pitches to hit. There is no one really to pitch around because you got somebody dangerous on deck. It is great.”
Desmond said the 19 hits and six homers show that this team can hit - and hit for power.
“That was good,” Desmond said. “We know we are capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark. It is good to see the guys barreling the balls up and kind of as a unit we played well today, offensively and defensively.”
The Nationals have now scored eight or more runs in five of their last seven games.
Remember that stretch of six runs in five games in late August? Yes, a distant memory with these bats humming.