KANSAS CITY - If anyone was worried the Nationals might suffer from a hangover in the wake of last night's gut-punch loss to the Royals, they wasted no time alleviating those fears this afternoon.
Six-run first innings have a way of easing the pain. And then four more runs in the third finish the job.
The Nats burst out of the gate in today's series finale, knocking Kris Medlen all around Kauffman Stadium and taking advantage of some more sloppy Kansas City defense.
Bryce Harper, who had been 1 for his last 23, started off the rally with a bloop RBI single to center. Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth then followed with three consecutive doubles to blow the game open and leave the large crowd that gathered for Kids Day at the park murmuring with concern.
The fact that the Royals, who won back-to-back pennants thanks in part to some of the game's best defense, committed three errors in the inning only added to the dissatisfaction in the stands.
By the time Medlen struck out No. 7 hitter Wilson Ramos on his 38th pitch to record his first out of the afternoon, a sarcastic roar of approval rained down on the right-hander.
Had they been paying closer attention to the Nationals, the assembled masses might have known to expect early offense. The Nats have now scored 14 first-inning runs in the first six games of this road trip, which began in St. Louis and now will conclude in Chicago. They've also scored 39 total first-inning runs this season, most in the majors.
Handed a six-run lead before he ever took the mound, Stephen Strasburg found himself in an enviable position, able to go right after opposing hitters with minimal fear. But the right-hander wound up walking leadoff man Alcides Escobar during what became a 20-pitch first inning. He then labored in the bottom of the second, giving up two-out RBI hits to Drew Butera and Escobar, leaving the Nationals ahead 6-2 with his pitch count elevated at 45.
No worries, though, because Strasburg's teammates got him both runs right back, and then two more for good measure. They strung together five singles in the top of the third, ultimately making this a 10-2 game, with contributions from everybody.
To wit: Every member of their lineup has at least one RBI through the first three innings of the game.
Update: And they're not easing off the gas pedal. It's now a 12-2 lead for the Nats through five innings, thanks to homers by Murphy and Harper. Yes, Murphy is 3-for-3 and now sporting a .396 batting average. And yes, Harper's long nightmare is over. He's 2-for-4 today and sent a towering shot down the right field line for his 10th homer of the season. He also gets the rest of the afternoon off now, replaced in the field by Matt den Dekker.
Update II: This one is over. Your final score: 13-2 Nats. An absolute drubbing. Strasburg improves to 5-0 on the season. Harper and Murphy homered, with Murphy now owning a .398 batting average after a 4-for-5 day. The Nationals have taken five of six in St. Louis and Kansas City, the lone loss coming on last night's blown save. Now it's off to the North Side for a four-game showdown with the equally red-hot Cubs.