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During the Nationals' surge to second place in the NL East standings, their offense has ranged from inefficient to ineffective, rarely doing much of the heavy lifting in the team's move up the standings. But they have continued to win anyway, repeating the mantra over and over that they hadn't played their best baseball yet.
At least from an offensive standpoint, it looks like those days are finally arriving.
it wasn't just a 14-6 win over the Rockies on Thursday night on a sodden night at Coors Field, a game in which every Nationals position player but one had a hit and all but two had multiple hits. It's been the last few days when the Nationals have finally started to win games at the plate. They've now scored 26 runs in their last three games, winning two of those despite a trio of mediocre starting pitching performances.
This team has found a different way to win every night, and it's now 20-15, in second place in the NL East and five games over .500 for the first time since Sept. 17, 2005. And if the Nationals' offense is rounding into form, they could be about ready to go on the long winning streak they've so far been unable to put together.
Johnny and Ray talk with Jim Riggleman after the Nats' 14-6 rain-shortened victory
"We played good," manager Jim Riggleman said. "Tough conditions, both clubs played hard through some real sloppy conditions. Guys are bearing down at the plate, got some big hits and we finally won one by a nice, big margin."
Starter John Lannan was lifted after 4 2/3 innings, his strong start to the game devolving into a four-run fifth after the Nationals had scored four of their own in the top of the inning. Lannan, pitching for the first time in 10 days after skipping a start with elbow discomfort, said the long rest between innings and the cold weather caused his elbow to stiffen up.
"The (first four) innings were going pretty quick. The long fifth kind of got me," Lannan said. "I tried a heat pack, I tried everything, and I just tightened up."
He threw the ball well in the first four innings, though, mixing all four of his pitches and showing only minimal signs of rust after the layoff. And once Lannan was out of the game, the Nationals' offense really took off.
They scored seven runs in the bottom of the eighth, sending 12 batters to the plate and putting nine of them on base. By the time the inning was done, it was 14-6, and after rain halted play in the top of the ninth (which turned out to be the end of the game), the Nationals had their fifth win in six games.
After this road trip, which concludes with two games in St. Louis after the four-game series with the Rockies, the Nationals don't play another game against a 2009 playoff team until July 30. Especially with Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen soon on the way, that's a long stretch to turn this season into something more than a hot start.