Three games ago, Dan Haren declared the Washington Nationals (52-54) had reached rock bottom of their shaky season after getting pounded by the New York Mets (46-55) in an 11-0 defeat.
From rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up, and the Nationals proved this on Sunday by giving the Mets a taste of their own medicine with a series-winning 14-1 victory. Since that atrociously low point, the Nationals are 3-0.
Sunday’s win was far from the dreary, offense-deficient performances that had become standard at Nationals Park since the All-Star break. The Nats were incredibly successful with runners in scoring position, and their 9-for-12 mark for the day drastically departed from a period when they went 7-for-81 with RISP. Wilson Ramos contributed to that offensive breakout with his first career grand slam, and Taylor Jordan reaped the benefits by receiving his first MLB win.
Every starting Nationals hitter but Adam LaRoche – who hasn’t has a hit since his triple last Thursday and is 13-for-80 this month – collected at least one hit and either scored or batted in a run.
Ian Desmond and Denard Span both went 4-for-4, and Span hit his second home run of the season and the series. Jayson Werth drove in his NL-leading 21st run of the July. Ryan Zimmerman went 2-for-2 in his first two at-bats, though he was only thrown one pitch in each, something Davey Johnson said he had never seen before in his career with the Nationals.
The offense scored their 14 runs on 18 hits – both season highs – but the biggest hit of the game came in the third inning, when Ramos crushed a no-doubt home run off Mets starter Carlos Torres for a grand slam.
The five-run third inning knocked Torres from the game after allowing a total of eight earned runs, but no Mets pitcher could fool the Nats, who seemed set on breaking out of their offensive funk and earning the win for Jordan.
In his previous five starts with the Nationals, Jordan had been denied adequate run support, despite his putting in solid work. On Sunday, Jordan again put in a strong bid for a win, allowing only one earned run through six innings, but this time he was finally rewarded for his performance with a W.
Jordan pitched a perfect game across the first three innings, before Eric Young interrupted with a lead-off single in the fourth. Jordan would allow just four more hits and one walk on his way to victory. His seven strikeouts were the most he had punched out in an outing this season.
Johnson was in high spirits after the win, and was pleased with the accomplishments of both Jordan and his hitters that allowed the final score to be so lopsided.
“I asked for a laugher on my radio show today, and that’s what we got,” Johnson said. “I like it.”
The uptick in hitting comes at an opportune time. The Nationals have won four of their last five games, and the buzzword “momentum” has begun floating around the clubhouse again, as they prepare to play five games in nine days against first place teams, including their rival Atlanta Braves.
“We’re right where we need to be,” Johnson said.
The Nationals can only hope their prime positioning hasn’t happened too late.