Like Godzilla from the sea, the Washington Nationals’ offense has awakened. And it’s rampaging through DC.
For the second straight day, the Nats (27-27) ran roughshod over the Texas Rangers (28-28), smacking four home runs and getting four hits from Anthony Rendon en route to a 10-2 win.
It was a veritable behind-the-shed whooping, as the Nats led 5-0 by the time the first Ranger reached base, and were up 8-0 after the fourth inning. Not only did the Nats bring it with the bats, but they also looked great on the mound. Doug Fister (W, 3-1) was perfect through three innings, though he would end up allowing two runs on four hits and a walk in six innings, striking out six. Additionally, Craig Stammen and Jerry Blevins both notched scoreless relief appearances.
The story of the day, apart from the general offense, was the great showing from Rendon. He was 4-for-5 with a solo homer, his first since May 5th, and three runs scored after getting two hits in Friday’s game. Friday was his first multi-hit game since May 6th, and he now has as many multi-hit games in the past two days as he did from April 30 to May 29. He also submitted some amazing defensive plays, including a diving backhand stab and bullet throw across the diamond to steal a hit from Adrian Beltre. The month of May had caused him a lot of trouble, but he looks to be back on his game as the calendar turns to June.
Following Rendon’s example, the team’s offense got off to a fast start at the expense of Rangers starter Nick Tepesch (L, 2-1). Rendon socked a solo homer in the first to put the Nats up 1-0, but that was just the beginning. The Nats scored four runs on five hits, a walk, and an error in the second, including a two-run bomb by Jose Lobaton and a two-run double by Jayson Werth, to grab a 5-0 lead. That spelled the end for Tepesch, who retired just five of the 14 Nats he faced in two innings of work.
After the second, the Nats had scored in seven consecutive innings going back to last night. Since arriving in Washington, the franchise had never accomplished that feat. The last time the Expos/Nationals franchise matched it was back in 2003. Sadly, Rangers reliever Scott Baker would end the streak the next inning.
Meanwhile, Fister was rolling. He retired the first ten Rangers he faced, and didn’t yield a run until the fifth. After his disastrous Nats debut in Oakland, he has put up a 2.13 ERA in his four starts since, striking out 21 and walking just two in 25.1 innings.
The final nail in the Rangers’ coffin came in the fourth inning, when Adam LaRoche launched a three-run shot to right field, giving the Nats an all but insurmountable 8-0 lead. LaRoche has hit safely in every game since his return from the DL, and his offensive performance has not dropped off, as he is 7-for-21 (.333) with two home runs since coming back.
The Rangers did get on the board in the fifth and sixth to prevent a shutout and trim the margin to 8-2, but Scott Hairston re-slammed the door with a pinch-hit, two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth to extinguish Texas’ hope.
Of course, the Nats can’t score nine or 10 runs every game, but their resurgent offense will face a stiff test against Rangers starter Yu Darvish in the series finale as the Nats go for the sweep on Sunday. The output is likely somewhat a product of the pitchers they have faced these past two days, but the team struggled against pitchers of similar caliber recently. Now they just have to show they can hit one of the best pitchers in the game.
Hairston’s pinch-hit blast, his first of the year, was the thirteenth of his career, the most among all active players. The record, of course, belongs to ex-Nat Matt Stairs, with a whopping 21.
Stammen has been somewhat overshadowed in the bullpen this season, as his teammates have posted incredible numbers. But he is on quite a run of his own after two scoreless innings today. After an awful outing against Miami in April ballooned his ERA to 6.48, he has allowed two runs in his last 11 appearances over 21.2 innings, good for an ERA of 0.85. He has been as dependable as can be forever for the Nats, and is in his stride this season.