Patience beginning to be rewarded in Nationals’ offense

The Nationals struck out 11 times against Rockies veteran starter Roy Oswalt on Thursday, yet found a way to scratch out four runs.

On Friday, Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood, recalled from Triple-A on April 24, did not allow a run in the first five innings. The Nationals mustered only two hits in that span, but they found a way to scratch out a couple of clutch hits in the sixth. Then, a big blast gave them the lead in the seventh.

The Nationals ended up winning 2-1 over Colorado for their longest win streak since early May.

The ability of the offense to not panic has helped them to win these three in a row.

Even with the bats not consistently connecting, they have found some clutch hits the past three games.

It all started Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Shortstop Ian Desmond was having a tough night at the dish. He rebounded big time in the 11th with the first grand slam of the season for the Nationals in a 6-2 come-from-behind win against the Phillies.

It erased for a moment that feeling that things weren’t going well on a 3-5 road trip. But Desmond said that is where it actually began for the offense.

“I think we started a while ago,” Desmond said after hitting a home run in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. “The record doesn’t really indicate it. I am sure the people on the outside probably don’t really take that too seriously.

“We have really been playing better. We ran into some tough pitching. The kid Chatwood did a great job. He pitched a heck of a ballgame. (It was a) huge knock by (Ryan) Zimmerman to drive in the tying run. (Stephen) Strasburg pitched great. It was just a fun game, good crowd too.”

And what about his three home runs since Wednesday?

“Still the same white ball coming in, I am just whacking away at it, as you can see from my first two at-bats,” he said. “I am just really blessed. I don’t know what to say.”

Third baseman Zimmerman had the first big hit of the night on a RBI double in the sixth to tie the score at 1-1. Desmond’s homer made it 2-1. It was just two runs, but they were critical for Strasburg. He pitched well enough for another win. This time, the two runs held up.

It turns out that clutch hits are just as important as a ton of runs can be in winning.

“We don’t ever really lose faith or anything like that,” Zimmerman said. “At times, it might look like that. We are out there trying every day. We understand that it is a long season. We haven’t hit the ball like we should yet this year. We have a little bit of time left to do that. We want to take advantage of the time we have left.”

One spark plug has been second baseman Anthony Rendon. Similar to Bryce Harper, Rendon has a knack for base hits when no one else seems to be able to scratch one out. Rendon went 2-for-4 to get his average up to .333.

“You talk about a guy we all knew he could hit,” Zimmerman said. “(He was) just thrown in at second base with just ten games maybe there. He has been outstanding. His approach at the plate and everything he has brought this team since he has been up, obviously it has been great for us.”

But manager Davey Johnson also understands there is still work to do. Jayson Werth is not going through a couple of rough games. Also, for example, after two hits Thursday, Denard Span went 0-for-4 on Friday.

“We are still not where we need to be,” Johnson said. “Every hitter in the lineup is not where they need to be. But, we are going to get there. I have all the confidence in the world we are going to get there.”

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