Coming into this season, what type of team did you envision the 2013 Washington Nationals being?
You probably didn’t see the Nats hitting a collective .235 or getting on base at a .299 clip.
I’m guessing you didn’t see them leading the majors in errors and sitting dead last in fielding percentage. There’s a good chance you didn’t see the reigning National League East champions ranking in the bottom half of the league in team ERA.
Yet entering last night’s ballgame, that’s where the Nationals stood.
The Nationals had played very few well-rounded, team ballgames this season. When they got good pitching, they didn’t seem to manage much offensively. When they brought their bats, the pitching was often lacking.
Last night, for the first time in a while, the Nationals put it all together. They racked up 12 hits and eight runs. They got clutch hits, going 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position and scoring three runs with two outs. Five of their knocks went for extra bases, and every starting position player except for one got in the hit column.
Defensively, the Nats were smooth as silk, even with Steve Lombardozzi - a natural second baseman - getting just his 14th career start at third base.
And then there’s the pitching performance turned in by Gio Gonzalez, who allowed just a single hit over eight tremendous innings, giving the bullpen a rest and giving his team a great chance to win.
“You saw a little bit out of everybody, what we’re capable of doing,” Denard Span said. “Starting pitching going late in games. Us catching the ball. Us making the routine plays. Us stealing bases. Us coming up with big hits. That’s what this team is capable of doing.
“We have a lot of talent, and sky’s the limit. We’ve just got to be more consistent, and I think as the season progresses, that’ll come.”
The Nats didn’t necessarily need any type of reminder that they could put together the type of game they did last night. Despite having lost nine of their last 12 games entering last night’s contest, the Nats kept saying they were well aware of the talent they have in that clubhouse and remained confident as a group.
Still, having lost four in a row in discouraging fashion, with the offense scuffling, starting pitchers being inconsistent and defense looking downright sloppy, it must have been a bit reassuring for the Nats to click on all cylinders as they did against a quality Reds ballclub last night.
“That’s how this club should play,” Danny Espinosa said. “Obviously, we’re going to lose ballgames. We’re going to have bad ballgames where things just happen. We’re going to make errors. But the way we played tonight, we have such dominant pitching, and our hitting, we have good hitters.
“So, yeah, this is definitely more of what I expect from our team rather than the (previous) three games.”