The Nationals have been talking for weeks about how their bats were due to come alive at some point, and how, in spite of their abysmal results in the first one-third of the season, they were still doing all the right things.
Before today’s game, manager Jim Riggleman decided to reinforce that one more time. He gathered his players for what starter Jason Marquis called a “reinforcement meeting,” a quick session to remind the Nationals to keep playing hard, in spite of a 2-10 record in their last 12 games that had sent their record reeling.
It’d be easy, and tempting, then, to say that their 10-2 win over the Phillies on Tuesday night, where they scored more runs against Cliff Lee than anyone had scored all year and beat the Phillies worse than they ever have since coming to Washington, was some kind of grand turning point. It could turn out to be. But it’s too early to say for sure.
Give the Nationals this, though: They did an awful lot of things right on Tuesday.
They got back to working counts, drawing five walks off the Phillies and becoming the first team this year to get three walks off Lee. They finally hit with runners in scoring position, going 6-for-11 in those situations. And after losing 12 games earlier this year in which they blew leads, they added on after the Phillies hit back-to-back homers off Jason Marquis in the fifth inning, with Danny Espinosa hitting his second homer of the night.
Every starter had a hit, and five drove in runs. It was one of the most complete offensive performances of the year for the Nationals, and it came against a pitcher who’d thrown a three-hit shutout against them the last time he was at Nationals Park.
“We can hit them.” Espinosa said. “They’re great pitchers, obviously, but they’ve had losses before. No one in this game has been perfect. Obviously, they’re not going to be on their game every single time, and when we have the offense that we have, we can take advantage of mistakes.”
The thing is, though, the Nationals have had too many instances this year where they haven’t done that. They’ve hit poorly with runners in scoring position all year, and though they hit for a higher average in May, they finished the month with 14 fewer walks than they had in March and April, despite playing two more games.
On Tuesday, though, they got a balanced, opportunistic attack for at least one night. Now they’ll try to sustain it.
“I feel good about our offense,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “Obviously, we haven’t been putting up the runs as much as we’d like or as much I think we can. But hopefully, by the end of the year, the runs will be there, the wins will be there and we’ll have more nights like this.”