Johnson: "I feel like the offense is making strides"

It is a small sample size for the Nationals hitters, and some of the Orioles starters have been struggling a bit, but 15 runs, 21 hits and eight home runs in two games is impressive.

The Nationals offense has been desperate to get going all season. With four homers in each of the last two games, including three in one game by Ryan Zimmerman, it is possible to see a little glimmer of sunshine at the end of the tunnel.

This has also arrived with the big bats of Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. Manager Davey Johnson said there is a good chance Harper will be back in Atlanta and Werth by June 4 at home against the Mets.

Johnson said Zimmerman has been leading the way, and hopefully that will help get others going too.

"I like especially the way Zim is swinging the bat," Johnson said. "A lot of other guys are looking a lot better. You need all of them to hit, especially in the American League. You got nine of them in there, they all got to pull their own weight. This is a good place to get it going to. I feel like the offense is making strides. It will be nice to get Jayson and Harp back in the lineup."

Johnson believes confidence in the lineup at the plate will also get them to relax in crunch time, the late innings, where rallies from deficits have been nonexistent this season.

"Once everybody feeling good about themselves, it is easier to mount a comeback," Johnson said. "We are not quite there yet. We have had too many outs in the lineup. It has just been a struggle, and they are capable of hitting. I think it is basically all mental. But it just takes a little break here and there, a ball drop in, hit a ball hard, to set us off. This is a good place for it to happen right here."

The Nationals would certainly accept what happened to them after completing a series last season here in Baltimore. In late May of 2012, the Nationals lost two of three against the Birds at Camden Yards, but won the getaway game 9-3; Zimmerman received a cortisone shot that worked, and something clicked. The Nationals won five of their next six on the road, 2-1 at Philadelphia and a 3-0 sweep at Atlanta.

They also won 14 of their next 20 heading into the middle of June 2012.

The Nats hope they can repeat history a bit this time and having Harper back in the lineup Friday could be that one big step in the right direction.

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