Nats proud of recent rebound but know they still have work to do

The Nationals bounced back from Friday’s loss to the Royals with a convincing 6-0 victory Saturday afternoon.

Max Scherzer pitched seven shutout innings, Kurt Suzuki hit a two-run shot and Juan Soto went 2-for4 with two RBIs to lift the Nats to 46-42.

The Nats are in a battle for second place in the National League. East, six games back of the Braves. The Phillies lost to the Mets 6-5, so they trail Atlanta by 6 1/2 games. The Marlins beat the Braves 5-4 on Saturday.

The Nationals are now 27-11 (.720) since May 24. They have won nine of their last 11 and 14 of their last 18 games to get back into contention.

If the Nationals win today, it will tie their best 39-game mark ever (28-11).

Starting pitching has been very good, the team is on a 20-game home run streak and the bullpen has held their own during this current run. The Nats have one more game Sunday against the Royals before they get four days off during the All-Star break.

“I am very happy about the way we’re playing baseball,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “I know we made some baserunner mistakes (Saturday), but you know what? They’re playing aggressive. For the most part, we’re actually doing the things we talked about throughout the year, which is some of the little things. So, let’s continue to do that. We’ve got one more game before the break. For me, let’s finish up strong and we can go and relax and have a couple days off and come back and start the second half off the same.”

Scherzer-Talking-With-Suzuki-Gray-Sidebar.jpgCatcher Suzuki, who crushed a two-run homer to set the tone in the second inning, repeats the saying his manager has instilled in the team since the beginning, even when they were 19-31 in late May: Go 1-0 today.

“We just got to keep taking it day-by-day,” Suzuki said. “We got a lot of season ahead of us. Obviously, we got the break coming up, guys can rest a little bit and guys will be feeling better. Come off the break strong and take care of business (today) and get some rest and get going again.”

Shortstop Trea Turner, who had two hits and a run scored, said the team’s focus is not on the second half just yet. It is on winning two of three against the Royals by taking today’s series finale.

“Winning series is what we’ve talked about for the majority of the year,” Turner said. “Sweeps are nice, but if you can win every series, you put yourself in a good position. So (today’s) another chance to win a series, and with the break coming up end on a win too.”

It’s been a pretty impressive bounceback, considering how the season began. A major reason for the turnaround? Max Scherzer going 7-0 in his last seven decisions. He believes the additions of Gerardo Parra, Fernando Rodney, Javy Guerra, Tanner Rainey and Jonny Venters also have played a major part in the big uptick.

“Not our best in the beginning, and obviously, I think with a couple additions that we’ve picked up, the clubhouse has kind of changed and we really got a good thing going,” Scherzer said. “We started playing better baseball, really cleaned up our act all the way around, everybody. Everybody had a hand in why we were making mistakes and just not playing winning baseball.

“Once we started clicking and getting going, eliminating a lot of our mistakes and errors and made the other team beat us (it all clicked),” Scherzer continued. “If you can make the other team beat you, you’re doing something right, and we know that the guys in this clubhouse are very talented. We can go out there and play our best baseball and play mistake-free baseball, we’re a tough team and we can compete with anybody in this league.

“I think that’s what you’ve seen over the past handful of weeks, of us playing great baseball, and that’s everybody,” he concluded. “Everybody in this clubhouse, one through 25, everybody has had their role at some point in time and been asked and called upon, and every time they get asked upon, everybody’s delivered. That’s the recipe for winning baseball, is when you’ve got everybody pulling on the same rope.”

If they win today, the Nats will be five games above .500 (47-42) for the first time since June 25, 2018, and will have won five of their last six series heading into the All-Star Break. The Nats were 48-48 heading into the All-Star Break last season.

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