It was as fair question to ask: After Saturday night’s - er, early Sunday morning’s - demoralizing 15-14 loss to the Brewers in 14 innings, how would the Nationals respond?
Apparently soul-crushing defeats and lack of restorative sleep result in prodigious displays of home run power.
The Nationals took full advantage of their home park’s launching pad characteristics in warm, humid weather, muscling up to hit eight homers in a 16-8 rout of the Brewers that secured a series victory.
“What I like is the fact that ... after yesterday, after playing so many innings, after being here until two in the morning and going to bed at 4:30 in the morning, coming back and doing what they did,” said Nats manager Davey Martinez. “That’s the testament that these guys are ready. They want to play and they want to win. I love it.”
The onslaught tied a team record for homers in a single game, matching the eight homers the Nats clubbed against the Brewers on July 27, 2017. Juan Soto and Brian Dozier went deep twice apiece, while Matt Adams, Victor Robles, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton also connected.
“We came here to battle and those results just came by themselves,” Robles said via team interpreter Octavio Martinez. “It’s not like the team was trying to do anything differently or hit them, but they just came out and we came to battle and the results were the results.”
After combining for 11 homers last night (but only four by the Nationals), the teams hit 12 more longballs Sunday. The Nats hit their first seven home runs over the first five innings and the output marked the first time in team history that the Nats had scored 14 runs in successive games.
“We knew going in we had to bring our bats and I think we did that this series,” said Eaton, who went 6-for-11 with two doubles, a triple, two homers and six RBIs in the past two games.
Not long after learning that embattled closer Sean Doolittle was going on the injured list with tendinitis in his right knee, the Nationals unleashed a barrage of longballs that provided a lead large enough that even the Nats’ sometimes porous bullpen could protect it with ease.
“They came to play,” Martinez said.
The beneficiary of the offensive explosion was Erick Fedde, who seems to make a habit out of pitching on days when the Nats get the bats going. Fedde wasn’t sharp - allowing four runs on 10 hits over five innings - but he really didn’t have to be.
“It makes my job a lot easier,” said Fedde, who picked up the win by throwing five innings and allowing four runs on 10 hits. “It’s amazing to see that in the first three innings, to have a huge lead like that. It makes my job pretty simple: Just go out and attack guys.”
Fedde extracted himself from a bases-loaded predicament with two down in the first, getting Manny Piña on a grounder to short. He didn’t have a clean inning on the afternoon, but the offense gave him all the latitude he needed.
With two on and two out in the home first, Adams crushed his 19th homer to right-center, and Robles followed with a shot to left-center. The back-to-back blasts produced a 4-0 lead - and were a sign of things to come.
Eaton missed a homer with a two-RBI triple that caromed off the right field wall in the second and the Nats got three more roundtrippers in the third, solo shots by Dozier and Soto sandwiched around a two-run homer by Rendon for a 13-0 cushion.
Washington’s first 10 runs - and four of the homers - came against Brewers starter Chase Anderson, who entered the game with a career 9.00 ERA in two starts at Nationals Park and left with a 16.39 career ERA on South Capitol Street.
Reliever Aaron Wilkerson gave up three homers, including solos by Eaton and Soto in the fifth. The final blast of the day came off Dozier’s bat leading off the eighth against position player-turned-pitcher Hernán Pérez.
Eaton praised the Nationals’ veteran leadership, which didn’t let the pall from a disheartening loss linger too long.
“Before the game, everyone kinda says one of those things: ‘Hey, we all get it, you’re all tired, but who cares? We’re here, let’s get the job done.’ Our veteran leadership is the key,” Eaton said.
Added Martinez: “The long game yesterday and coming back and jumping on top of them early, that shows you what kind of team this really is. They’re relentless. They come out, they’re ready to play, and they go out there. I told them early, I said, ‘Hey, let’s jump on them early, score first and get on them right away,’ and they did that.”