CHICAGO - Though it perhaps hasn't happened as frequently as they would like, the Nationals have known all along their lineup is capable of scoring runs in bunches on a regular basis, more than enough to overcome even a moderate deficit on any given night.
As Bryce Harper put it: "When we're down, we're never down."
They've now proven that in consecutive games. Two days after storming back from a five-run deficit to beat the Reds, the Nationals stormed back from a three-run deficit to beat the White Sox, this one by a count of 10-5 on a night when any out recorded by anybody who stood on the pitcher's mound was precious.
After watching Joe Ross labor through an abbreviated start that included five runs on four hits, three walks and a hit batter in the first two innings alone, the Nationals knew their only chance to take the opener of this interleague series was to outslug the White Sox. So they began chipping away at Chicago's pitching staff, making up ground not in one big chunk but in steady doses over several innings.
They got two runs a piece off Mat Latos in the second, fourth and fifth innings, ultimately knocking out the veteran right-hander and handing him only his second loss of the season.
"I think it was good that we focused on one (run) at a time and did not try to get them all back in one inning," Ross said. "Definitely a confidence booster. Everyone's getting hits. As long as they can try to pick it up and not be too heavily relying on one or two guys, it's great."
The key lately has been the fact the Nationals are getting production from a variety of hitters after seeing only a couple of guys swinging a hot bat at a time through most of the season's first two months. At long last, they're seeing Anthony Rendon look like the 2014 version of himself, Ryan Zimmerman look like the career-long version of himself and Harper begin to look like the guy who won the MVP last season.
Harper had been in a prolonged slump since the last time he played a game in Chicago (early last month, when the Cubs went out of their way not to pitch to him). But after a three-hit performance Sunday in Cincinnati and another strong showing tonight that included a two-run double and a sacrifice fly, Harper may be turning a corner.
"The last month, I've been feeling good at the plate," he said. "Maybe the results haven't been there, but I've felt fine. My swing has felt good, and it felt great tonight. Hopefully I can just keep it rolling."
Rendon's swing has looked good for some time now, among the most encouraging developments for this team over the last few weeks. With a three-hit night that included a two-run homer and an RBI double, he's now hitting .348 with 13 extra-base hits and 15 RBIs over his last 25 games.
"Water seeks its own level, sooner or later," manager Dusty Baker said. "You got a lot of games to play. We welcome Anthony back. He hadn't been anywhere, but the ball is jumping off his bat again and he's getting some clutch hits for us."
Combine the resurgence of those players, plus Zimmerman (.971 OPS over his last 21 games) and the consistently productive Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos, and the Nationals finally have the makings of the lineup they envisioned all along.
That lineup has now scored 10 runs in each of its last two games, the first time the club has done that since April 28-29, 2015 in Atlanta.
"This club can hit," Baker said. "We've been sporadic in our offense, and inconsistent in our offense, but hitting breeds confidence. Confidence is spreading around."