Momentum has been a concept that has eluded the Washington Nationals (37-36) for over a month, but on Friday night they scratched out a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rockies (37-38), which resulted in a long awaited three-game winning streak.
Stephen Strasburg was key to the Nationals’ victory, as he kept the game close for seven innings, allowing only one run on five hits with nine strikeouts.
Strasburg entered the game with the lowest run support in baseball (2.50 runs), and hadn’t earned a win in game since May 26. It makes it hard for an ace to do his job of helping his team win ballgames when his team doesn’t score any runs. But luckily for him on Friday, the Nationals cranked up the offense just in time to allow Strasburg to exit the game in line for his fourth win of the season.
Though the Nationals offense scraped together just enough runs to give their starter the win, they didn’t make Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood’s job very hard for him for the first five innings.
Chatwood threw a total of 97 pitches in six innings, and gave up one run on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Through the fifth inning, the Nationals put only three runners on base off Chatwood with two hits and a walk, making a pretty lame showing against a pitcher whom the rest of the league has a .282 batting average and .342 on base percentage against.
The Nationals’ offensive frustrations were highlighted by Chatwood’s seven-pitch 1-2-3 fifth inning. But after letting him off the hook in the fifth, they came back in the sixth and made him pay with a two-out single from Anthony Rendon followed by a double by Ryan Zimmerman to tie the game.
Rendon was the only Nationals hitter to have a multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a run scored. His two hits were his 26th and 27th of the season, which officially gave him more hits than Danny Espinosa in exactly half as many games (22 to 44).
Ian Desmond led off the seventh inning with his third home run in as many games – the first time in his career he had homered in three consecutive games – to cap off the Nationals’ runs for the night and give them the lead.
Manager Davey Johnson was pleased with the win becoming the Nationals’ first streak since May 10, but was understandably still unsatisfied with the state of the offense as a whole, as they tallied only five hits and left five men on base in the game.
“Any time you win it feels good, but we’re still not where we need to be,” Davey said. “But we’re going to get there. I have all the confidence in the world we’re going to get there.”
A good sign of success on the pitching side for the Nationals came in the eighth inning when Drew Storen showed off some of the closer’s swagger Nats fans have seen from him in years past.
In what was probably his best appearance of the season, he struck out two of the Rockies’ hottest hitters, Carlos Gonzalez on four pitches and Michael Cuddyer on three, to end the inning and strand the tying run in scoring position.
“That’s the old Drew right there,” Johnson said.
Several similarities can be found across this short winning streak: it was the third straight game in which Desmond hit a home run and in which Nationals pitchers struck out nine or more batters.
Homers and high strikeout games every night is a lot to ask from any team. But if the Nationals can keep it up, maybe it won’t just be the old Drew that Johnson is congratulating after a game, but the old Nationals, who are capable of stringing together many more than three wins.