After getting swept by the Philadelphia Phillies last week, the Washington Nationals could have begun a free fall in the NL East standings.
The Nationals, however, have had a recent knack for hitting home runs, winning three of their last five games while avoiding losing ground to the Atlanta Braves. These contests were against winning teams (the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers) and Washington hit 15 home runs during that span.
With both the Nats and Braves losing Tuesday night, the Nats maintained their largest NL East lead of the season of seven games.
On paper, the Nationals have one of the league’s deepest lineups. Shortstop Ian Desmond, who leads all shortstops in home runs, has hit sixth in the order for the majority of the season. The home run binge has been a revelation for their offense, as the Nationals have struggled all season to string hits together to create big innings.
Three different Nats players have multiple home run games during this mini-streak. Bryce Harper hit two homers in their only loss during the Mariners series. Wilson Ramos hit two of the six home runs at Safeco Field on Friday, making the Nats the first visiting team in a decade to hit six homers in one game in Seattle. The least likely of them all came last night, when Denard Span hit two pitches over the wall against the Dodgers.
Yes, that Denard Span, owner of two home runs over his previous 144 games prior to Monday’s big night.
The most impressive part of the home run display was that four home runs were hit off of Mariners ace Felix Hernandez during the six homer barrage. Eight different players have gone yard during the streak, including each position on the diamond with the exception of the pitcher’s spot.
Jayson Werth has hit a homer in three of these games and Harper also added a dinger in two other games along with his multi-homer performance. The Nationals are now tied 10th in the majors with 131 home runs as a team and it’s a complete team effort. Twenty different players have homered in a Nationals uniform this season, trailing only the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 22 different players and the San Diego Padres’ 21 players.
The significance of the Nats’ rebound from being swept by a rival cannot be understated, as another National League contender, the Milwaukee Brewers, have lost seven consecutive games and relinquished their NL Central lead in the process. All season long, the Nationals have overcome adversity; from injuries to a scuffling offense to players underachieving.
The addition of a constant power threat will make the Washington Nationals all the more dangerous in the season’s final month.