Despite owning the best record in the Major Leagues and winning ball games in every manner possible this season, up until last night the Washington Nationals had not hit a grand slam all season.
Well, you can cross that one off the list now as well.
Michael Morse squared up on a Johan Santana fastball and crushed it to right center field, over the out-of-town scoreboard, clearing the bases and giving the Nats a lead they would never relinquish, eventually beating the New York Mets 6-4, before a near-capacity crowd of 34,827 at Nats Park.
Nice way to start a homestand.
The win extends the Nats MLB-best record to 74-45 and the team retains a four-game lead over the Atlanta Braves, who overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in extra innings, 4-3.
Morse’s 12 home run of the season came after three consecutive singles by Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman off Santana (L, 6-9, 4.85), who became the first pitcher to give up six or more earned runs in five consecutive starts since Mike Hampton did spanning 2001-02. Harper (2-for-3, BB, 2 runs, 2 RBIs) provided the ultimate margin of victory with a two-run shot off Santana in the fifth inning, his 11th of the season.
The offensive firepower made a winner out of Ross Detwiler. The lanky lefty had a tough first inning, allowing three straight two-out hits for two runs. But he settled down and started getting his sinker down in the zone, at one point retiring 16 of 18 batters, mostly on ground ball outs. Zimmerman made several highlight reel plays at third base in support of Detwiler, who runs his record to 7-5 with a 3.25 ERA. He gave up three earned runs on six hits and one walk in the outing, throwing just 84 pitches in six innings.
Manager Davey Johnson said afterward he would have like to given Detwiler another inning, but with the lefty experiencing the flu for a couple of days last week, Johnson felt like he could go to his rested bullpen and not tax Detwiler any further.
Craig Stammen gave up a solo home run to the newest Mets, catcher Kelly Shoppach, to cut the Nats lead to 6-4 in the seventh, but Drew Storen pitched a scoreless eighth and Tyler Clippard, despite walking two in the inning, closed things out for his 26th save of the season.
THE TAKEAWAY: Morse started off slow after returning from the oblique issue that kept him out the first half of the season, but he’s starting to heat up in the middle of Davey Johnson’s order. He’s hit .293 in August so far, which is right about his averaged, but he’s slugged .534 and has mashed four home runs in the past week, including last night’s opposite field blast. This team is obviously much better when the middle of the order is going well, and Johnson thinks they are starting to click. “[Morse]‘s in a good spot right now. The whole middle of the lineup’s in a good spot.”
THE GOOD: Werth, Harper and Zimmerman all had two hits apiece in the first three spots in the order.
THE BAD: Adam LaRoche went 0-for-4. You’ll have this.
THE UGLY: Didn’t you used to be Johan Santana? Every since his 134-pitch no-hitter June 1 he’s been, simply, terrible, seeing his ERA rise from 2.38 to where it stands after the game at 4.85.
THE STATS: 8 hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks. 2-for-3 with RISP, 3 LOB, no GIDP. No errors, 1 DP.
NEXT GAME: Saturday at 7:05 pm against the Mets. Edwin Jackson (7-7, 3.74) hosts lefty Jon Niese (9-6, 3.67).
NATS NOTES: Ian Desmond was activated before the game and started at shortstop. He went 0-for-4 in his return. Cesar Izturis was designated for assignment to make room on the active roster.