Coming into the season, the Nationals felt like they had a team that was capable of running off numerous lengthy winning streaks.
Players and front office staffers believed that with the starting rotation being structured the way it was, with four very talented, young starters and one proven veteran, and with a seemingly improved back of the bullpen, wins would come in bunches.
Fast forward to the middle of August and the Nationals have put together just three four-game winning streaks all season.
The Nats are currently on one of those four-game runs, and if they’re able to beat the Giants again tonight, they’ll tie their season-high with five straight wins.
Compare that to last season, when the Nats had eight winning streaks that lasted at least four games, including one stretch of eight consecutive victories.
The wins just simply haven’t been clustered together this season, and while you can certainly scoff at the idea that the Nats are building momentum now (there’s the dreaded “m” word again), the Nats do finally feel like they’re starting to play better ball lately.
“What we’ve had in the past has been a couple games,” Adam LaRoche said. “I can’t remember the last time we put four wins together. Feels like it hasn’t happened this year. Obviously been a while. Again, you just build off it. It’d be nice if we could rewind and go back to April and start this thing over again. That’s baseball. Keep grinding.”
The Nats notched their fourth straight win last night with Rafael Soriano working a scoreless ninth, picking up his 30th save of the season.
Soriano started to loosen up when the Nats began the bottom of the eighth, but ended up having more than enough time to get loose. The bottom of the eighth saw six Nats hitters come to the plate, including two pinch-hitters, one Giants pitching change, 25 pitches thrown and one run come across.
It normally takes Soriano just a few warm-up tosses in the bullpen to get ready for an appearance, so he had more than enough time on his hands during the inning. The 33-year-old could be seen playing with the dirt on the pitching mound with his feet as he waited for his chance to finally take the ball for the top of the ninth.
“Oh, my God, I play dominoes on my phone,” Soriano joked.
Or maybe he wasn’t joking. Who knows what those bullpen guys do out there.
After that lengthy wait, Soriano got the job done, retiring the Giants in order to lock down the win. With the save, Soriano reached the 30-save mark for the third time in his career, going along with the 2012 season (42 saves with the Yankees) and 2010 campaign (45 saves with the Rays).
Soriano also became the fourth Nationals closer to reach the 30-save mark in a season, joining Tyler Clippard (32 in 2012), Drew Storen (43 in 2011) and Chad Cordero (47 in 2005, 37 in 2007)
Soriano has been a set-up man for much of his career, so he hasn’t had many chances to pile up the saves, but he knows he’s got the ninth inning here in D.C. for the rest of this season and next year, as well.
“I feel fine every time he gives me the opportunity,” Soriano said. “I’ve got two years here, and I feel fine and feel comfortable to save the game for the team, and we’ll see.”