It was in the not-so-distant past when the Washington Nationals trotted out non-prospect rookie after rookie in meaningless September games, watching their opponents abuse their unprepared pitchers one after the other. Tuesday night, it was the Nats’ turn.
The first-place Nats scored in every inning but two against seven different rookie pitchers for the Chicago Cubs en route to an 11-5 victory before a meager crowd of just 17,648 at Nats Park.
The win, coupled with a loss by the Atlanta Braves, stretches the Nats (83-52) lead in the N.L. East to 7 1/2 games.
Edwin Jackson earned the win, despite running out of gas abruptly in the sixth inning. The right-hander had allowed just one run through five innings, but gave up a three-spot before being lifted with two outs in the sixth. The Nats lead was so large by that point though that Jackson easily qualified for the win, his ninth of the season. In total he allowed four earned runs on seven hits and one walk, striking out eight.
The Nats jumped all over Cubs starter Chris Rusin, making his second MLB appearance, right off the bat. Jayson Werth singled to lead off the bottom of the first and Ian Desmond launched his 20th homer of the season into the right center bleachers just three pitches later. Rusin got out of the rest of the inning escaping further damage, but the Nats picked up where they left off in the second.
Jesus Flores led off with his fifth homer of the year, sending one into the seats on the Red Porch. Jackson followed with a line drive single over the shortstop’s head. Werth lashed a double into the left field corner and Desmond scored them both with a double of his own to left center that fell just a few feet from being his second homer of the game.
The Cubs got a run in the fourth on Starlin Castro’s RBIs single, but the onslaught continued for the Nats in the bottom half against Rafael Dolis, the Cubs’ fourth pitcher in as many innings. With two outs, Adam LaRoche sent one into the Cubs bullpen for his 26th homer of the season, and third in three days. Espinosa singled, then Tyler Moore launched a moonshot that fell 15 rows back in the left field stands to make it 8-1.
Ryan Zimmerman was the last Nats starter to record a base hit. That came in the sixth in the form of his 18th home run of the season. The Nats tacked on their tenth run in the seventh. Bryce Harper, who came in for defense the previous inning, doubled, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on Werth’s fourth base hit of the night.
LaRoche had one more swing in him as well, taking one to deep right field in eighth inning for his second home run of the night and his 27th of the season, capping the Nats scoring for the evening.
The six home runs tied the record for the most hit by the Nats in team history since the relocation in 2005 (vs. the Orioles, May 20, 2011) and was the most a Washington-based team has ever hit at home in history.
THE TAKEAWAY: Everyone got in on the act last night. Every Nats position player that batted got a hit — even Jackson went 2-for-3. It was an impressive display against a bunch of pitchers that might not be in Major League uniforms for very long. LaRoche has hit four homers in four days. Werth is hitting .346/.419/.490 since returning from his broken wrist, mostly from the leadoff spot. Desmond matched a career high for single-game RBIs — in the second inning. Other than a couple tense moments by Tom Gorzelanny in the seventh inning, this one was a laugher.
THE GOOD: LOTS to go around. Werth was 4-for-5. Desmond was 2-for-4 with four RBIs. LaRoche was 4-for-4 with two solo homers. Espinosa was 2-for-4. Moore’s homer was a moonshot and Flores’ was a laser. Just good stuff all around.
THE BAD: Ryan Mattheus gave up a solo home run to Alfonso Soriano in the eighth inning.
THE UGLY: Tom Gorzelanny. He walked the bases loaded with the score at 9-4 to bring up Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs best hitter. It was a tense at bat, with Gorzy finally striking out the rookie, but it was enough to get the heart rate up a bit.
THE STATS: 19 hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks. 3-for-11 with RISP, 9 LOB, no GIDPs. No errors, 1 DP.
NEXT GAME: Wednesday at 7:05 against the Cubs. Gio Gonzalez (17-7, 3.10) hosts Chris Volstad (2-9, 6.06). Also, it’s Dollar Dog Night, if you’re in to that sort of thing.
NATS NOTES: Christian Garcia made his Major League debut in the sixth inning, getting a pop up to end the inning after Jackson allowed the three runs in the frame. Garcia, 27, was a 2004 draft pick of the New York Yankees and has had two Tommy John surgeries on his pitching elbow.
BATTING SONGS: We put together a list of this season’s music. Check it out and help us keep it updated. Thanks.