Middle lineup offense will always be key to Nats’ resurgence

The Nationals’ offense came alive in the first game of their series in San Diego. Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper crushed home runs, while Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman offered clutch hits in a 6-2 victory over the Padres.

It was just the third time in the past seven games that the Nationals had scored at least six runs, all wins.

LaRoche now has a 13-game hit streak, the longest of his career. He has home runs in back-to-back games.

To see Harper return after Monday’s scary collision with the outfield wall and connect for a 431-foot home run was another big step.

“They pitch him tough,” manager Davey Johnson said on MASN’s Nats Xtra. “That pitch was a great sinker, and he crushed it. It is nice to have him back. One more day, and we will have another guy back. It was just a good win, we needed it, after losing a couple in a row.”

They will certainly need the offense from LaRoche, Harper and Zimmerman, the heart of the order, while waiting for other “guy,” Jayson Werth, to rejoin Saturday. If the Nats are going to maintain some consistency offensively, as with any team, they need the core of lineup to generate some runs.

This need for a surge in offense is made more critical with the news that Wilson Ramos is out at least two more weeks with a hamstring strain after being placed on the 15-day disabled list before the game.

The team responded better than it has recently with runners in scoring position, going 3-for-8 against San Diego.

The game-changing moment came in the fifth inning, the Nats already up 2-0, when Lombardozzi slapped a RBI single and Zimmerman followed with a two-run base hit. Suddenly, the Nationals led 5-0.

You have to believe that the 5-0 advantage played a part in Strasburg’s confidence to throw whatever pitch Kurt Suzuki called in a tough bottom of the fifth. Having that wiggle room courtesy of an offense that had scored just one run in the past two games had to give Strasburg the feeling that, even if he allowed a run or two, he would be good.

That is what happened, with the Padres scoring two runs.

Harper’s mammoth blast took care of that in the seventh, and with one swing, the 20-year-old had to also feel a little bit better about where he was at while recovering from the myriad of bumps and bruises he endured following Monday’s outfield wall collision.

Zimmerman induced two walks and then provided the two-run single, raising his average to .274. He now has a five-game hit streak. The RBI hit was especially well-struck, and, with LaRoche crushing a pair of home runs the past two games, maybe the power the Nats will need from that part of the order is also returning just in time.

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