If we forget about everything bad surrounding the Nats recently, tonight was pretty good. The Braves won their fourteenth (!?!) straight game, but that doesn’t matter. The Nats still trail by 15.5 games, but at least it’s not 16.5, and at least we’re still in second place. That is much more than can be said for the Phillies, however, so the Nats should be counting their lucky stars. The Phillies were ahead of the Nats as late as July 24th, but they are now three games behind the Nats and have lost 15 of their last 18. Most importantly, the Nats were on the winning side of tonight’s 9-2 walloping. Dan Haren continued his masterful return from the DL, while John Lannan, who dominated the Nats out of revenge in his first two starts against them this season, got his comeuppance. For just one night, everything clicked for the Nats, but instead of a haunting spectre of what they could have been, it’s an island of bliss in the frustrating tempest this year has become.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Anthony Rendon‘s home run (+14.4%)
With one swing of the bat, Tony would open the floodgates against Lannan. The Nats loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning, but failed to convert. In the second inning, Rendon came to the plate with one runner on and took Lannan deep for his sixth home run of the year, putting the Nats up 2-0. Ryan Zimmerman would hit his 13th one out later, and with a 3-0 lead, the Nats would add five more runs over the next three innings.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Michael Martinez‘s lineout into double play (+6.9%)
Haren dominated just long enough for his offense to build a lead, and was still pretty strong afterwards. He did not allow a hit until there was one out in the fourth inning, and erased the only runner in that time on this double play. He hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch to lead off the third, but Martinez lined out to Adam LaRoche, who also got Ruiz on the force. Haren didn’t allow a run until the Nats led 4-0, and left the game with an 8-2 lead.
Champ of the Game: Haren (+16.9%) has now shockingly won his last three starts after losing the previous eleven, with a 2.43 ERA since coming off the DL. He pitched seven innings tonight, and allowed two runs on just four hits and no walks. He struck out seven in the winning effort, and had (of all things) an RBI bases-loaded walk. Chase Utley (+4.9%), fresh off his two-year extension, was 2-4 with an RBI and a run scored. He got the second hit of the night off of Haren, scoring Michael Young, who had the first hit.
Chump of the Game: Bryce Harper (-3.0%) did not partake as much in the offensive festivities, going a paltry 1-5 with an RBI that happened as the Nats led by six in the eighth inning. Lannan (-33.6%) regressed to the mean hard against the Nats. His final line: 5 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 5 BB (?!?), 3 K. Needless to say, with a 14.40 ERA and 9.00 BB/9, tonight was not one of his best.