The Nationals have been waiting for Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina to come around and provide some of the offensive firepower that they showed last season, when the two reserve outfielders combined for 15 homers and hit a collective .279.
Coming into today, Moore and Bernadina had just one home run on the season between them and were batting a collective .138.
That all changed in the fourth inning.
Moore and Bernadina hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth, turning a tie game into a Nats lead.
Moore’s shot was a two-run blast out to left that came on an 0-2 slider from Kevin Gausman. Moore reached out and put the barrel to the ball, and on a warm night at Nats Park, the ball flew out of here.
Bernadina followed by crunching a 1-2 97 mph fastball that was right down Broadway into the bleachers in right-center.
Can’t say I saw those two going back-to-back given the way they’ve struggled this season.
The Nats weren’t done in the fourth after Bernadina’s longball, however. Denard Span doubled in Kurt Suzuki from second with two outs, giving the Nats a 7-3 lead after four.
Gausman is now done after just four innings of work. The Nats got to him for seven runs on eight hits, and the 22-year-old, who works in the upper 90s with his fastball, failed to strike out a batter.
Rough second major league start for the LSU product, but credit the Nats for doing two things they haven’t done much this season - scoring tack-on runs and getting production from their bench.
Six of the seven Nats runs came around on homers.
Nathan Karns will now take the mound for the fifth inning with a four-run edge, needing just three outs to put himself in line for his first big league win.
Update: Those three outs proved too tough to get, and Karns has been pulled after 4 1/3 innings of work.
The 25-year-old righty got pinch-hitter Steve Pearce swinging to begin the fifth, but then issued consecutive walks to Nate McLouth and Manny Machado.
The second walk forced manager Davey Johnson from the dugout, ending Karns’ debut.
Zach Duke came on to relieve the rookie and needed just two pitches to get out of the jam he inherited, getting Nick Markakis to ground into a 6-3 double play.
The final line on Karns: 4 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HR, 85 pitches, 50 strikes.
He relied heavily on his fastball, and it showed good life. Karns mostly worked at 93-95 mph but topped out at 97 mph, and threw a couple impressive offspeed pitches.
The outing didn’t end the way Karns surely wanted it to, but all in all, he did a nice job against one of the top offensive teams in the majors and has given the Nats a great chance to win this ballgame. Not too shabby for a kid who entered today with just nine starts above high Single-A under his belt.
Update II: An inconsistent Nats bullpen has turned in a really strong performance tonight.
Duke, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard have combined to throw 3 2/3 scoreless innings so far tonight, Adam LaRoche hit his second homer of the night - a laser down the right field line that left in a hurry - and the Nats have a 9-3 lead.
Karns kept the Nats in it, the bullpen has been solid and the bats have come alive. Quite a formula.
Update III: That’ll do it. The Nats take game two of the Battle of the Beltways 9-3, splitting the two-game series here in D.C. before we head up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway for two more between these teams at Camden Yards.
Duke gets his first win of the season and the Nats slugged four homers, two of which came from LaRoche, who had four RBIs.
This was the Nats’ highest single-game run total since April 15.