NEW YORK - The roller-coaster season continues. A big win Friday, a downer of a game Saturday in which the Nationals scored just one run and a dominating showing in a 13-2 victory today.
The Nats' pitching has been pretty consistent the last couple months, but the offense sure hasn't. Today, the Nats exploded offensively, to the point that the Mets ended up sending catcher Anthony Recker to the mound in the ninth, looking for someone to just eat an inning and save their bullpen in what they were conceding was a blowout loss.
"It's a boost," Adam LaRoche said of today's offensive output. "Especially since we haven't seen it a whole lot this year. We know we've got the lineup that can go out any given day and put up 15 hits and 10 runs, and it just hasn't happened. This isn't going to happen every day, obviously, but I think it should a lot more often than it has."
The Nats put up 13 runs today. Tomorrow, they get back their most dangerous hitter in Bryce Harper, the guy who had nine home runs and a 1.150 OPS through the season's first month.
"He carried us the first couple months," Davey Johnson said. "He was the one guy they saw on the lineup and you have to pitch him tough. Our lineup is built where everybody is tough. It's going to be good to get him back."
"That's a middle-of-the-order hitter," Kurt Suzuki said. "He's a definite impact player. Any time you can add a guy like that to your lineup, offensively and defensively, you're in good shape."
Gio Gonzalez has gotten very little run support over the last couple of months, but that wasn't an issue today. He struggled a bit in the first, putting two runners on before settling down and throwing seven scoreless for his fifth win of the season.
It was clear to anyone watching that Suzuki's mound chat with Gonzalez in the first inning helped set the left-hander straight. Ryan Zimmerman jokingly said that Suzuki "is like (Gonzalez's) babysitter out there," and their brief discussion helped get Gonzalez on track after a rocky start.
"Basically, I just said, 'Go right at these guys. Get ahead. Attack the strike zone. Put them on the defensive a little bit and just focus on the glove,' " Suzuki said. "It worked out."
Watching the interaction on the press box TV, the conversation sure seemed a little less family-friendly than that, if you know what I mean. Suzuki got pretty animated during his chat with Gonzalez, which isn't uncommon given the years of experience those two have working together, dating to their time in Oakland playing with the A's.
"That's just knowing each other," Suzuki said. "He doesn't take it personally. He knows. I really don't get on him much. Sometimes I do, but I just made sure today I really stayed on him because I want him to do well."
I guess it worked out, huh?
"Seven shutout," Suzuki said with a smile.
Gonzalez threw 71 percent of his 119 pitches for strikes, well above his career average. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, his 84 strikes thrown is a career-high for a single start.
"That's still a shock to me to get that many strikes. I'm used to seeing more balls than strikes," Gonzalez said. "It's a change for me. It's just me working harder with Zuk and Steve McCatty just trying to pound the strike zone but it does help when you've got good defense and guys that are making great plays."