It wasn’t easy. It also wasn’t easy on the blood pressure.
Regardless, the Nationals found a way to end their five-game losing streak last night.
Let’s tuck the panic meter back into the garage for a while. Toss away the stress balls. Pick up the shredded box scores from the last few games that were flung all over the living room floor.
The Nationals’ 8-4 win over the Marlins (the score makes it seem a whole lot more lopsided than it actually was, doesn’t it?) coupled with Atlanta’s 8-2 loss to the Padres boosts the Nats’ lead in the National League East back to five games.
Think about that for a second. The Nats drop five straight and yet they still find themselves five games up in the division. That’s why the guys in the Nationals clubhouse weren’t about to panic; they knew that, while they’d played bad baseball for a few days and nothing had been given to them yet, they’re a talented bunch that was bound to put it together quickly.
Of course, yesterday means nothing if the Nats immediately fall right back into the same bad tendencies which we saw over much of the last week. But if the Nats can build on last night’s big win during this upcoming 11-game homestand, which begins tonight against the Cardinals, that slide might become a distant memory.
Need a reminder of just how important the Nationals’ recent drafts have been in this remarkable organizational turnaround? Just look at the guys who stepped up in a big way last night to lead the charge.
The Nats’ 2007 first-rounder, Ross Detwiler, threw 5 2/3 strong innings, allowing just two hits into the sixth, when he began to tire. Detwiler picked up his eighth win of the season and moved to 2-0 against the Marlins in 2012.
Their 2010 first-rounder, Bryce Harper, mashed two homers, notching his first career multi-home run game and giving him 14 longballs for the season. I bet we won’t hear many calls this morning for Harper to be moved down in the batting order.
We will, however, hear about Harper’s emotional streak getting the better of him again. Harper shouldn’t have been ejected when he spiked his helmet after grounding into a double play last night, but that doesn’t mean he’s without fault. Davey Johnson told reporters after the game that Harper’s emotional outbursts need to end, and he’s right. Harper has to start learning to deal with failure, which is inevitable in baseball.
Then there’s the Nats’ 2009 first-round pick, Drew Storen, who was called upon to get the Nationals out of a major jam in the eighth inning. Leading by two and with the Marlins having runners at second and third with nobody out and the heart of their order due up, Storen was up against it.
Somehow, he wiggled out of the jam, getting Carlos Lee to line out to center, Giancarlo Stanton (who has been absolutely on fire the last month) to strike out swinging on a filthy slider and Justin Ruggiano to ground out to third.
Inning over, threat over. Three defensive outs later, game over. If there were still questions about whether Storen has what it takes post-elbow surgery to regain a major role in the late innings, those questions were answered last night.
File that performance away as one of the more impressive ones of this Nationals season, at least in my book.
Three first-round picks stepping up. One big-time win in Miami. Eleven games at Nats Park upcoming, with a chance to keep the momentum rolling and increase the margin in the NL East race.