A lot has been made of the potential of this Washington Nationals lineup when everyone is healthy.
Unfortunately for Mike Rizzo, Matt Williams and everyone associated with the Nationals, we’ve had the last three months to talk about that potential while players shuttled to and from the disabled list.
Yesterday was the first time since the seventh inning on opening day that we got to see the planned eight starting position players in place.
Wilson Ramos is now healthy, with his hamate bone removed and his hamstrings hopefully strong. Ryan Zimmerman’s fractured thumb is now healed. Adam LaRoche’s quad issues appear to be behind him. And Bryce Harper’s torn ligament in his thumb is no longer an issue.
On opening day, we discussed how LaRoche - who hit 33 homers and drove in 100 runs in 2012 - was hitting seventh, and Anthony Rendon - who possessed a world of offensive talent - was batting eighth.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the Nats’ opening day Nos. 7 and 8 hitters have ended up being far and away the team’s most consistent offensive producers this season. That’s lineup depth.
Ramos was batting in the cleanup spot on opening day. Last night, the guy who has 30-homer potential when he’s healthy and clicking offensively was hitting eighth. That’s lineup depth.
In a big situation in the sixth inning last night, with the game tied and runners at second and third, the Rockies intentionally walked Harper to get to Ian Desmond, the No. 7 hitter in last night’s lineup, one who happens to lead the Nats in homers and RBIs.
Desmond made the Rockies pay, ripping a first-pitch double into the left field corner, clearing the bases and busting the game open. Walk the No. 6 guy, the No. 7 guy is ready to do some damage. That’s lineup depth.
It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Now that the Nationals have everyone healthy, where are the easy outs? Where are the soft spots in this batting order? When Williams writes in Harper’s name in left field, Zimmerman at third base and Rendon at second, he gives the Nats their best offensive lineup, and one that flat-out can punish opposing pitchers. There’s no let-up from 1-8 in the order, and we saw last night what that can lead to.
“It’s a strong lineup,” Desmond said afterwards. “I don’t think there’s too many opposing pitchers out there that want to see it.”
“It’s one of the best lineups in baseball and pitchers are going to have a hard time with us,” said Jordan Zimmermann, who benefited from the offensive explosion and was last night’s winning pitcher.
The Nats have a bunch of streaky hitters in this lineup, and there will be times when the bats collectively go quiet. That’s bound to happen, even with everyone now healthy.
But with Harper back from the DL, joining the list of players to work back from injuries and slide back into the lineup, the Nats have the potential to put up crooked numbers on any given night. Their lineup has depth, their lineup has punch, and now, what everyone has envisioned dating back to spring training has finally come together.
“One through eight, pick your poison,” Harper said, “because you’re gonna get a guy that can hit the ball out of the ballpark or hit a double.”