The Nationals are getting into rarefied territory now, at least in terms of their short and inauspicious history in Washington. Their seven-game win streak is tied for the third-longest since they moved to the District in 2005, trailing only the 10-game run they had their first season in Washington and their eight-game streak from Aug. 2-9, 2009.
And the way they won on Friday - beating the Orioles 8-4, despite the fact that Baltimore had four players who outhit Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman combined - simply wasn't something they would have done early this year.
"This game, we had no chance earlier in the year," manager Jim Riggleman said. "The four runs they scored would have been too much earlier, because we would have scored one, two or none. We knew we were better than that."
Normally, I use this format for a Second Look piece the morning after a game. But I'm trying it out tonight for a couple reasons: First, there's a day game tomorrow, so the window to reflect on the previous game is shorter. And second, I'll be doing this before the game tomorrow.
At any rate, here are tonight's awards:
Jerry Hairston Jr.: He went 3-for-3, scoring a run in the fifth inning on a groundout after advancing to third on Mark Reynolds' throwing error. And with Wilson Ramos on first in the sixth inning, Hairston drove a double to left on a hit-and-run, bringing in Ramos for what turned out to be the decisive run. "(Jeremy Accardo) has really good stuff. The ball kind of gets on you a little bit," Hairston said. "I didn't want to commit going to right field. I just wanted to make sure I covered the baseball."
Ian Desmond: Aside from extending his hitting streak to 11 games with a 2-for-3 performance, Desmond also drove in two runs and walked once, scoring the Nationals' first run with some impressive baserunnning in the fifth. He got a great jump on Zach Britton, stealing second on Matt Wieters, who's been tough to run on all season. Then, he rounded third on Ryan Zimmerman's single up the middle, beating Wieters' tag at home plate. Check Byron Kerr's blog for more on Desmond's night.
Sean Burnett: He had been struggling, but Burnett was solid for the second straight game, allowing only a hit in 2/3 of an inning. And when Riggleman left him in to hit in the sixth inning, Burnett handled himself well, drawing a walk, going from first to third on a Jayson Werth single and scoring on Desmond's sacrifice fly. "He had a pop-up slide, he went first-to-third, he didn't fall for the bunt (shows and start running)," Hairston said. "He looked like a veteran baserunner out there."
Jason Marquis: For the second time this year, he had a grueling night against the Orioles, allowing 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings, though he limited the damage to four runs with a couple well-timed ground balls, including a double play and an a groundout to first to end the fifth after he'd given up two singles to start the inning. "They were aggressive - real aggressive," Marquis said. "I would catch a little too much of the plate - just enough to find those holes. Days like these, nights like these, you've got to find a way to get deep and really limit the damage. That's what I had to do tonight. These nights aren't so easy."
Todd Coffey: Entering the game in the sixth to relieve Marquis, Coffey gave up three hits and let two inherited runners score. He'd only allowed one inherited runner to score all season before Friday night.
John Wall: The Wizards guard threw out the first pitch on Friday night at Nationals Park - about 20 feet short of Drew Storen behind home plate. And worse, there was no Dougie.
In Case You Missed It:
* Ramos said Riggleman told him in the sixth inning that if he got on base, to be ready for a hit and run in an attempt to avoid a double play. But when Hairston saw shortstop J.J. Hardy leak toward the second base bag, he knew he'd have a hole toward left field, instead of taking the ball to right field, where most hit-and-runs are designed to go. "I've played against J.J. a long time, and he's a very intelligent ballplayer. I knew that he knew that if Ramos was running, the only way he'd run was a hit-and-run," Hairston said. "I kind of bet that he'd cover the bag. I was trying to hit a ground ball to short, and it just so happens I hit it down the line."
* The Orioles got their first run in the fourth inning on a Robert Andino single to left, and even though Hairston made a solid throw home, Ramos couldn't reach to his left and snag the ball before turning to tag Derrek Lee. "I think I turned my body too early before I caught the ball," Ramos said. "I have to concentrate on catching the ball first. Sometimes, when the throw is a short hop, it's not easy to make that play. I have to learn that."
* Ryan Zimmerman's new throwing mechanics resulted in another unsightly overhanded throw in the third inning, but when he needed to make a sidearm snap throw to get Adam Jones at second in the sixth inning, he got the ball there just in time, ending the inning.
1. The Nationals continue to win games in different ways during their seven-game streak, taking this one despite Werth and Zimmerman going a combined 2-for-10. Is that an encouraging sign, or a hint they're getting some gifts from opponents not playing very well?
2. Who impressed you most in the win on Friday - Hairston, Desmond, Burnett, or someone or something else? Let me know who you think deserves recognition.
Leave your answers in the comments section. Once I get done running and free myself of mud, I'll talk to you from Nationals Park.