Nats slug three homers at spacious Petco Park in 8-5 win

The home run has become such a big part of the Nationals' offensive attack, they're even managing to hit them in bunches in one of baseball's most spacious ballparks.

With three more homers tonight, the Nationals outslugged the Padres 8-5, fazed not one bit by the expanded dimensions at Petco Park.

Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos hit back-to-back opposite-field shots in the top of the third. Anthony Rendon added a solo blast in the sixth, raising the Nats' season total to 91 homers, tops in the National League.

Harper-Werth-Celebrate-Gray-Sidebar.jpgHarper's two-run bullet to left was his first in 15 games. The reigning league MVP has shown signs in recent days, though, of breaking out of the slump that has plagued him since early May. He's hitting .317 with a .408 on-base percentage (not to mention several hard-hit lineouts) over his last 11 games.

"Like I've been saying, I've been feeling really, really good up there," Harper told MASN's Dan Kolko after the game. "I'm just trying to get some pitches I can drive and not miss them. I think the biggest thing is just knowing that I can go out there any day of the week and play this game, play hard and help this team win any day of the week."

Ramos, on the other hand, has consistently remained red-hot at the plate through the majority of the season. His opposite-field homer was his 11th, and with another hit on the night he raised his batting average to .340, tops among all major league catchers.

The Nationals did manage to manufacture some runs as well, with Stephen Drew and Clint Robinson each lofting sacrifice flies to add to the club's total offensive output. Harper's RBI single capped a two-run top of the ninth that also included an unearned run on catcher Christian Bethancourt's throwing error.

Tanner Roark put his teammates in an early 2-0 hole after a shaky first inning that included three singles and a walk. The right-hander found his groove after that, though he did serve up a homer to Wil Myers and an RBI groundout to Bethancourt before departing after six innings.

"Tanner always battles," manager Dusty Baker told reporters in his postgame news conference. "He always battles. I'm just glad we got the victory for him, because he had lost a couple victories early in the year; somebody else got a couple of his wins. But Tanner's a fighter. And to be a quality big league pitcher, you've got to be a fighter. And Tanner's definitely that."

With the Nationals leading by only two runs at the time, Blake Treinen tossed a scoreless seventh inning in his first appearance in five days. Felipe Rivero then pitched a quick eighth, returning to the mound to start the ninth after the Nats expanded their lead to four runs. Shawn Kelley did, however, need to enter to record the final two outs after Rivero let two men reach base, earning his second save in the process.

Afterward, Baker told reporters the club will attempt to use Kelley the majority of the time as closer while Jonathan Papelbon recovers from a strained intercostal muscle, pending his heavy workload.

"This is what we settled upon," Baker said. "(Pitching coach) Mike (Maddux) and I talked about it, and we think he's best suited for that until Pap gets back. But again, he's thrown two days in a row, and I doubt if he'll be in that situation again tomorrow. He'd love to do it again. He'll never not take the ball, but sometimes we have to take it from him."

With the win, the Nationals improved to a season-best 17 games over .500, opening their first West Coast trip of the season in encouraging fashion.

"We came out swinging it, and we got runs on the board and we kept it going," Roark told reporters in San Diego. "A great team win after a long flight out here. It's good to get the first one."

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