The days when the Nationals scored six runs over a five-game span seem so long ago.
In reality, it was only a week ago that the offensive skid came to an end. And since then, the bats have come alive in a big way.
Tonight, the Nats exploded for 11 runs, 19 hits, six home runs from five different players and 11 extra-base hits. Adam LaRoche had two homers, Ian Desmond had a home run, a double and four RBIs and Danny Espinosa had two doubles as the Nats rolled to a lopsided victory over the Cubs.
“We’re in a pretty good place right now offensively,” manager Davey Johnson said. “We’ve been kind of building to it. I like the lineup; we haven’t had the lineup together very long. But even Desi, I really didn’t want Espy to go back to leading off against a lefty. So I asked Desi and he said, ‘I’ll hit anywhere, it’s fine with me.’ And he can. He can hit anywhere. Just a fun day.”
Johnson got in on the fun himself, correctly predicting to bench coach Randy Knorr that Tyler Moore would homer in the fourth inning off Cubs righty Rafael Dolis.
“I kind of told Randy, if he throws that 96 mile an hour fastball a little bit more, (Moore’s) going to kill it,” Johnson said. “And, boom, he did.”
Edwin Jackson benefited from five Nationals runs over the first two innings and picked up his ninth win over the season, evening his record at 9-9. He lacked his best stuff, but allowed just a single run over the first five innings before letting the Cubs back in it with three in the sixth.
“It wasn’t one of Jackson’s stronger games,” Johnson said. “But he was coming off two great outings, and I was going to cut him short. He caught me a little bit by surprise all of a sudden getting two quick outs in the sixth and just kind of lost it. I should’ve had (Christian) Garcia up, except I didn’t want to have the rookie come in with the bases loaded. But the way he threw the ball, I should’ve brought him in.”
Ah, yes, Garcia. The rookie right-hander, who was making his major league debut after coming back from two Tommy John surgeries, got Welington Castillo to pop up to end the sixth, needing just thrcee pitches to take care of business.
“I like the ball that comes out of his hand,” Johnson said. “He’s got a live arm. I’m sure it was a big thrill for him after all he’s been through to get back and get in a big league game, even if it was just for one out.
The game was well out of reach in the ninth, allowing the Nats to all have a nice laugh when Mark DeRosa trotted out to play third base only to learn Steve Lombardozzi had actually been called on to play the hot corner due to a bit of a lineup snafu.
DeRosa saw Lombardozzi, got the word that he was out of the game, asked for one more practice ground ball from first baseman Adam LaRoche and then trotted off to a standing ovation from the crowd. DeRosa tipped his cap as he got to the dugout and got high fives from a group of chuckling teammates.
“Everybody got a big laugh out of it,” Johnson said. “I told him, ‘I just wanted you to get out there in primetime and field some ground balls in front of the crowd and then take your standing O when you’re coming out.’ So they got a good laugh on it.”