It’s always a great feeling when the Nats can pile on an opponent, and especially so when they can do it three times in six games. Curiously enough, yesterday’s game had an identical 8-5 final score but involved a blown lead that the Nats recovered, not a big lead that was trimmed down. The offense is clicking on all cylinders except the biggest one: Bryce Harper is 0-19 since hitting a home run in his first at-bat off the DL. Obviously, the team will cool off, as will the scorching-hot Wilson Ramos, and Harper will heat up. But with the way the pitchers are shutting down opponents, anything beyond the pathetic offense the Nats featured earlier this season will be enough to force them into contention. They trail Atlanta by just five games, and have won seven of their past 11. The Nationals were never dead, and now they’re really coming to life. Does this mean they’ll close the gap in a month and then run away with the division? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that the NL East race will come down to the wire.
Jul 4, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals outfielders Jayson Werth (28) and Bryce Harper (34) high five each other after beating the Milwaukee Brewers 8-5 at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Most Important Nationals Hit: Wilson Ramos‘ two-run single (+14.8%)
Ramos has become unstoppable since returning from the disabled list. With the bases loaded and one out in the second inning, he singled to drive in two runs and turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. The hit was his fourth in four at-bats, and he would give the Nats another run on his fifth straight hit with an RBI single in the next inning. His bid to go 6-6 was spoiled by Chase Headley, who made a nice play to get him on a grounder to third in the fifth.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Chase Headley‘s RBI double (-10.6%)
Gio Gonzalez got off to a tough start in this game. The game’s second batter, Chris Denorfia, doubled, and was still on second when Headley came to bat. He had been mired in a 2-20 slump before this series began, but hit a ground rule double in his very first at-bat to score Denorfia and give the Padres a 1-0 lead. Gio would allow a few more baserunners but just one more run in the game’s early innings before locking down later.
Champ of the Game: Ramos (+17.1%) was 2-4 with a run scored and three RBI, just a day after he was 3-4 with five RBI. His eight RBI in two games are the most any Nat has had in two games this year. Headley (+15.3%) was 2-4 for San Diego with two RBI and a run scored thanks to a solo home run after his first-inning double.
Chump of the Game: Craig Stammen (-4.3%) had an uncharacteristically bad outing, entering with a runner on and two out in the seventh but allowing a double and a three-run homer before escaping. Padres starter Andrew Cashner had a much rougher time in his second start against the Nats after allowing three runs in 6.2 IP in San Diego in May. He went just two innings and allowed six runs on five hits and three walks, and failed to strike out anyone.