Over the first four games, the Washington Nationals lineup has been crushing home runs and has been the main source of runs for the offense.
Normally, in the month of April, the pitchers seem to be ahead of the hitters. It’s only four games, but the Washington Nationals offense has been crushing the long ball in the early stages of the year. So far, their nine home runs are the most of any team in the National League.
Yesterday, in the series opener against the Phillies, the Nats got home runs from Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Jayson Werth in their 7-6 win. Hitting three home runs in back-to-back games and having all your runs come from homers is impresssive, but two of those home runs stand out in particular.
The home runs that I am talking about were Harper’s in the first inning and Murphy’s in the fourth inning against Vince Velasquez. On a day where the Phillies right-hander had ten strikeouts, both hitters waited for their pitch and made him pay for the mistake.
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In the two home runs Harper has hit this season, he has seen a total of 13 pitches. He got ahead in the count 3-1 and eventually hit a changeup that got over the wall thanks to the wind. But, it still counts the same.
Two innings later, Murphy showed some good patience against Velasquez. Despite being fooled by offspeed pitches earlier in the at-bat, the second baseman eventually got a fastball he liked and crushed it for a home run. He has shown no rust in the first four games as he has two hits in each game.
If you count the total number of pitches the Nats have seen on their home runs this season, it reaches 38 pitches (just over four pitches per home run). Four of their nine home runs have come on three pitches or fewer.
When you look at this lineup, it has the ability to be among the best teams in baseball has hitting the long ball. On Thursday, they relied too much on it and hit 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the loss. Before yesterday’s win, Dusty Baker talked about how if they are going to hit home runs, then make them count for two or more runs:
"“Homers are fine,” he said. “But multi-run homers are better. Solos are cool, but that’s one run.” (h/t Mark Zuckerman, MASN Sports)"
Home runs are awesome and the Nats can hit the ball out of the ballpark with the best of them. Once Trea Turner gets going at the plate, they have a good 1-2 punch with him and Adam Eaton that can take pitches and allow the home run hitters in the lineup to take advantage of the mistakes.
With the talent that this starting rotation has shown early (eight runs allowed in four starts), one home run could easily change the game for the Nats, depending on who is the mound.
Max Scherzer had his A stuff early yesterday and gave up two runs in 6.2 innings to get his first victory of 2017 and stay unbeaten against the Phillies since 2015. For more on that start and the near bullpen meltdown, be sure to check out co-editor Ron Juckett’s postgame show from last night:
Since Jeremy Guthrie is on the mound tonight against Aaron Nola (7:05 p.m ET, MASN2), it would be good if the Washington Nationals can take an early lead and give Guthrie some calm on the mound early.
Usually, pitchers are ahead of the hitters in April. But, the Nats offense has shown early in 2017 that mistake pitches can be crushed out of the park no matter what month it is.