The Nationals have been waiting 2 1/2 months to see if their entire lineup is capable of coming together at the same time and producing like one of the best lineups in the majors.
That time may finally be arriving.
The Nationals have turned into a consistent offensive force over the last couple of weeks. They've scored an average of 6.8 runs over their last 12 games. Not surprisingly, they've gone 10-2 during this stretch.
And production isn't just coming from one or two sources. After relying heavily on Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy in April and then Murphy and Wilson Ramos in May, the Nationals are getting their hits from up and down the lineup this month.
Five regulars are hitting .300 or better during this 12-game stretch, topped by Jayson Werth (.421). Six players have hit at least two homers, with Ramos' four blasts leading the way. Six players have driven in at least eight runs, led by Murphy's 11 RBIs.
The Nationals have admittedly taken advantage of some less-than-dominant opposition, and they'll attempt to keep that up tonight against struggling Padres right-hander Colin Rea. But tougher challenges are looming in the near future: Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to start Monday night's series opener at Dodger Stadium against Stephen Strasburg.
Update: It's 1-1 after three innings, the two runs having been scoring in decidedly different fashions. The Nationals struck first, in the top of the first, with Michael A. Taylor drawing a one-out walk, stealing second and then scoring on Daniel Murphy's single to center. That's now 12 RBIs for Murphy in his last 12 games. And this is a guy who has been slumping of late, at least by his lofty standards. The Padres didn't need to manufacture their run. Wil Myers took care of it all by himself, lashing a pitch from Max Scherzer over the right field fence in the bottom of the first. That's 18 homers allowed by Scherzer in 15 starts this season, and 35 homers allowed by the Nats ace in his last 29 starts.
Update II: It's still 1-1 after five innings, but this game has turned into the Max Scherzer Show. He has figured something out since his first couple of innings, because he has now recorded eight of his last nine outs via strikeout. Rea has pitched well, too, but now he must face the Nats lineup for a third time. We'll see if he's got what it takes to complete another run through the batting order.
Update III: With seven innings in the books, the Nationals have taken a 2-1 lead. They did so thanks to a bizarre play that allowed Wilson Ramos to score from second base on a groundball that never left the infield. That play put Scherzer in line for the win, the right-hander's night over after 113 pitches in six innings. Matt Belisle pitched a scoreless bottom of the seventh to preserve the slim lead, but there's still a long way to go before the Nats bullpen locks this one down.
Update IV: Well, that escalated quickly. The Nats got an insurance run in the top of the eighth to expand their lead to 3-1, but that made little difference because the Padres just scored six runs in the bottom of the inning after a complete meltdown by Felipe Rivero. Rivero departed without retiring any of the six batters he faced, and all six wound up scoring (three of them after Blake Treinen took over with the bases loaded). It's 7-3 San Diego, and now the Nats are down to their last three outs.
Update V: It's over, and this certainly had to feel like the Nats' worst loss of the season. This felt like a 2015 Nats loss, in fact, with a starter unable to go more than six innings and then an overworked bullpen making a mess of things late. It's only one game, of course, but this one does raise some red flags.