As much as I enjoy a well-executed double-play, there’s nothing more exciting than being at the ball park when a member of the home team for which you’re rooting hits a grand slam. There are players running the bases, fans cheering, and horns blowing. This was the case on Sunday, when my husband and I witnessed a grand slam hit by the Washington Nationals’ Wilson Ramos in the bottom of the third inning. The Nationals went on to beat the New York Mets by a score of 14-1, and I was very happy to be there to take it all in.
The Nats have won 3 in a row, but not before being swept by the Dodgers and having a terrible series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. These games included one in which the Nationals left 12 players on base; one where Stephen Strasburg had his best outing of the year yet ended up with a loss due to lack of run support; and a game in which usually-passive manager, Davey Johnson, was ejected arguing a call. The Nationals ended their long homestand on a positive note, but it took them a while to get there and they’re still 8 and a half games behind the Atlanta Braves.
But there are many bright spots that give us Nats fans some hope, and one of them in Denard Span. Since moving down to the 7th spot in the batting order, the career leadoff hitter has had five hits, including his first two homers of the season. And what about Jayson Werth, who is batting .305? Then there’s the pitching, which remains pretty good despite Jordan Zimmermann not being as sharp since the All-Star break. Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg remain consistent, and rookie Taylor Jordan has pitched very well in place of the injured Ross Detwiler. Even Dan Haren had a good outing last weekend, and the bullpen seems to be doing OK (despite Drew Storen being sent down to triple-A Syracuse and Rafael Soriano blowing a save or two).
So what’s next for the Nationals? Two games on the road against the red-hot Detroit Tigers (Wednesday’s Gonzalez/Verlander matchup should be a good one!), and three games in Milwaukee against the Braun-less Brewers. The Nationals haven’t been doing very well on the road, but hopefully can win a few games before returning home to face the Braves and Phillies. That upcoming homestand is make-it-or-break-it for the Nats, who can still make the playoffs but have the Phillies right on their tails.
I’m trying not to get too excited; there is still a lot of baseball left to be played and a lot can happen. But the Nats’ current 3-game winning streak has fans on a high note (if we can forget about the 11-0 loss last Friday in game 1 of a double-header against the Mets). The Nationals’ bats have finally woken up, GM Mike Rizzo listened to my season-long pleas and got rid of batting coach Rick Eckstein, and Davey Johnson’s revamped lineup is taking shape (if only Adam LaRoche could get a hit or two). And don’t be surprised if the Nationals make a move in the next couple of days – the trade deadline is July 31, and Rizzo has said he may want to strengthen his bench. So let’s hope the Nationals don’t look bad against the Tigers and can continue their winning ways.