After the Nationals celebrated an 8-4 victory over the Orioles Friday night, their winning streak was extended to seven games, and they improved to 34-36.
What’s the secret to their success? The team is finally hitting the baseball after sputtering on offense in the first two months of the season. It isn’t a coincidence the team started a winning streak as a result of what they have done.
For all the talk about pitching winning championships, it means nothing if the pitchers don’t have any run support. Baseball teams need to know how to score runs in order to win games. That was the problem for the Nationals in the first two months of the season.
The hitter strike out often, and they were hitting into double plays. Guys were taking horrible at-bats by hacking at every pitch. They failed to execute with runners in scoring position.
Those issues caused consternation with the fans, who criticized Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein’s work with the hitters. Now, everything is a distant memory with the winning and improved performance.
The Nationals finally figured out how to make the pitchers work. They are creating big innings with the amount of runs scored. They seem to be hitting in every inning rather than being retired in order. They are extending singles into doubles. They are hitting the ball out of the park. They are even taking walks.
The improved hitting results to comeback, routs and walkoff victories. It also improves the team’s confidence to the point they expect to rally and win games when they are in a deficit.
It showed in the last two nights. On Thursday night, Nationals closer Drew Storen earned a blown save for giving up a home run to Yadier Molina, which tied the game at 4. The Nationals went back to work by getting couple on base, and it resulted to a three-run game-winning blast by Danny Espinosa.
Last night, the Orioles hit Jason Marquis around, and eventually, they tied the game at 4. The Nationals responded by scoring three runs in the sixth inning. Jerry Hariston Jr. hit the double to give the team the lead, and Jayson Werth extended the lead in that inning.
Right now, everyone is hitting, and it is beautiful to watch. It’s no wonder why folks are starting to feel confident about the Nationals, and why the team expects to win every game.
The improvements come down to three things which is better weather, hard work and long season.
Hitting coaches and players like to talk about waiting until the weather gets warm. In the cold weather, it’s hard to hit, and the ball don’t come out of the park with the wind blowing it back in. Maybe it wasn’t surprising to see the Nationals struggle in April and May based on that theory.
Most of the Nationals hitters are young. They need to make mistakes before they can succeed. The only way they will get better is spending more time on the batting cage and work on getting better. To the hitters credit, they kept working on taking pitches and listening to what Eckstein is telling them to do.
There’s something to be said about this season being a marathon. There are going to be ups and downs. It’s how the guys respond to it, and so far, they have done a better job of doing that. They kept working.
Everything is paying off now. With the pitching continuing to do well and with the team finally hitting, maybe the Nationals can start dreaming big. They should be able to be in .500 by the end of the homestand.
If this team can sustain this for the next two months, this could be an interesting fall.
Not only can the Nationals get to 81 or more victories, but playoffs could be something to think about. There are not many good NL teams out there this season, so the Nationals can make a good run of it.
It’s going to come down to what the Nationals do, especially their hitters. They have to keep this going. They have to do the little things that they have been doing last week. They have to keep sustaining this.
It’s good to be excited about now, but it’s not going to mean much if they go on another slump next month. With the weather being nice for the next few weeks, this should be an opportunity for the hitters to continue to hit well.
The pitchers are going to continue to do well. The Nationals have a good starting staff that can put them team in a position to win games. They have done this for a long period of time.
The hitters are a mystery. They have been up-and-down, not to mention they still have young hitters who are still learning the game. It’s easy to doubt them more than the pitchers.
It will be interesting if they can keep up, but right now, what they are doing is a beautiful thing.