It's hard to believe - or perhaps it's just a fact of baseball - that the Nationals' offense was in the middle of a 23-inning scoreless streak just over 48 hours ago. Now, they've scored 15 runs in their last two games, including eight tonight in an 8-5 win over the Reds, and are showing the earmarks of a complete offense.
What the Nationals did on Wednesday night - beating up on a pitcher who'd allowed two runs in his last 17 innings against them - offers no guarantees they'll do it again. This has been a sluggish offense too many times this year, and the Nationals will get another tough test on Thursday against Edinson Volquez. But the way they beat the Reds, redeeming a shaky night for their bullpen and lifting Stephen Strasburg to his fifth win, brought the Nationals some encouragement toward the end of a week where they haven't had much of it.
They hammered Reds starter Bronson Arroyo for seven runs, adding an eighth on a pinch homer by Willie Harris, and broke a four-game losing streak with the victory.
The keys to the win were the pieces of the Nationals offense that haven't been there enough for the attack to break through this year. Nyjer Morgan got on base twice in five plate appearances, driving in two runs and scoring another. Cristian Guzman was 2-for-5 in the No. 2 hole, hitting a two-run homer to put the Nationals ahead for good. And Roger Bernadina and Ian Desmond combined to fill out the edges of the Nationals' offense, going a combined 3-for-6 with three runs and three RBI at the bottom of the lineup.
If there's been one common problem with the Nationals' offense this year, it's been their inability to get anything going at the top of the lineup. But Morgan has a .361 on-base percentage in his last eight games. And Bernadina, though he's slipped a little lately, is still hitting .280 for the year. He's mostly gotten past the point of going through stretches where he looks lost at the plate.
When those two hitters are going well - and the Nationals get solid contributions from Guzman and Desmond - their lineup actually looks deep enough to win a fair share of games. Bernadina and Desmond are still feeling their way through their first full seasons in the majors. And technically, so is Morgan, though his age (30) and his fractions of three seasons before this one give the impression he's more of a veteran than he is. It's not a recipe that lends itself to much consistency yet. For one game, though, the Nationals' fractions all lined up to total something complete.