Tweaked lineup stays red-hot in Nats' 9-3 win (updated)

The unorthodox lineup the Nationals unveiled Tuesday night was supposed to be a temporary one, but perhaps Davey Martinez is going to have to reconsider its long-term potential now. Because although the Nationals' out-of-nowhere offensive explosion of the last 48 hours might be temporary, there just might be some staying power here as well.

Harper-Runs-Facemask-White-Sidebar.jpgWith Bryce Harper again leading off, Matt Adams batting third and Wilmer Difo batting ninth, the Nationals ransacked the Pirates pitching staff again tonight. This time, it was to the tune of a 9-3 victory, the club's third straight over the Pirates and fourth straight overall.

So, how about it, Davey? Gonna stick with this lineup again?

"We'll let it ride and see what happens," the manager said with a smile, repeating his line from the previous night. "The boys are doing well. Like I said, (Harper's) getting pitched to a little bit now, and he's swinging the bat well. So we'll keep it going."

As was the case during Tuesday's 12-run explosion, Harper, Adams and Difo were smack dab in the middle of it all. Harper led off the bottom of the first with a towering home run to right-center off a changeup from Ivan Nova, then added a 112-mph-off-the-bat double in the third, an RBI fielder's choice in the fourth and another run-scoring single in the fifth.

And so after going 12 games without an extra-base hit, Harper now has gone 4-for-8 with two homers, a double, a walk and six RBIs since getting bumped up to the leadoff position.

"Just going out there and getting some pitches to hit," he said. "I was able to do that tonight and get us some runs up there on the board. Like I said, everybody contributed tonight."

Harper's sudden resurgence certainly has been aided by those around him in the lineup, not only behind him but also in front. Adams has taken quite kindly to Harper's traditional No. 3 spot, going 5-for-7 with three homers and five RBIs the last two nights. His first-inning, opposite-field blast this evening gave the Nats an early lead in the wake of Harper's leadoff homer.

The big slugger continues to mash right-handed pitching, his offensive slash line now a robust .346/.452/.750 across 62 plate appearances this season.

"Regular at-bats get my confidence up there, and I can just continue to keep it rolling," said Adams, who has started five of the last six games either at first base or in left field. "I think the huge part of it is just getting a grip on the mental training we talked about earlier today, and just getting that confidence and not letting go of that."

Not to be overlooked is Difo, who despite bringing up the rear of this lineup with the pitcher batting eighth has been a force in these two games. The high-energy infielder went 2-for-4 with a double and hustled his way down the line to prevent a double play and allow a run to score tonight, leaving him 4-for-6 with two walks, a double and a homer as the Nats' No. 9 hitter.

"The biggest thing with this is Difo's getting on base," Martinez said. "That helps a lot."

All of the offense once again benefited the Nationals' starter, Max Scherzer on Tuesday and Stephen Strasburg tonight. Strasburg had some blips during his seven innings - he allowed three runs (two earned) and served up his seventh homer of the young season - but he still struck out 11 Pittsburgh batters and departed to a standing ovation from the crowd of 27,086 after throwing his 104th pitch of the game.

And so a Nationals club that seemed to be teetering on the edge of disaster not long ago has now won four in a row for the first time since the season's opening week. At 15-16, they're back within a game of the .500 mark. And though they remain in fourth place in the National League East, the Mets' recent struggles have allowed them to get to within four games of the division's new leaders: the surprising Braves.

"If we can just keep doing this," Harper said, "grinding at-bats and pitchers keep doing what they're doing, we'll be good."

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