With one swing of the bat, Ryan Zimmerman single-handedly knocked in four of the Washington Nationals’ 11 runs Sunday afternoon en route to an 11-7 victory over the San Diego Padres.
It only took one more swing – off the bat of Anthony Rendon – to make it six runs with five innings left to play.
The win, which marks the Nationals’ fourth straight, has inched the team to within four games of catching the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East.
Entering into Sunday afternoon’s matchup, the Nationals (46-42) had supplied Stephen Strasburg with an average of fewer than 2 1/2 runs per game. Just five innings into the game, however, the Nats had already tallied 11 on the scoreboard against a San Diego lineup that hasn’t recorded a win in nine contests.
Strasburg hadn’t quite performed at his best, either – he allowed four runs in six innings on seven hits and a homer – but he managed to tie his season-high nine strikeouts to record his fifth win of the season. Even more, the Padres’ Robbie Erlin handed the Nats plenty of opportunities for insurance runs in his four short innings pitched.
Before Zimmerman ignited the Nationals’ offense in the third inning, Bryce Harper batted in the first run of the game on a single that plated Denard Span in the first.
In the top of the third, the Padres caught the Nationals, thanks to a Carlos Quentin hit-by-pitch and a Chase Headley double.
But, the game remained close if only for a brief moment in time.
In the third, Strasburg himself drew a walk and took second on a bunt by Span. Ian Desmond walked and Harper singled once more, to create the perfect set-up for a Zimmerman grand slam.
It took Zimmerman no time – he beared down on the first pitch he saw, sending it over the center field wall to put the Nats up 5-1. The homer marked his 10th of the season.
Zimmerman, somewhat sheepishly, was called out by fans for a curtain call for his fourth career grand slam.
Just two batters – and a Jayson Werth single – later, Anthony Rendon stepped to the plate, ready to to follow in Zimmerman’s footsteps. After powering back from an 0-2 count, the rookie socked a homer to left to give Washington a 7-1 lead.
In the midst of the Nationals’ firestorm, the Padres showed signs of a fight that’s been missing from their batting order for more than a week.
The first hint came in the fourth after Nick Hundley walked and Alexi Amarista homered to pull San Diego back within four runs of catching the Nats.
If the Padres had crafted a plan to slowly chip away at the Nationals’ lead, however, they had failed to account for the damage that could be done against both Erlin and relief pitcher Tyson Ross.
Harper led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk off Erlin. On a slow-moving curveball that tailed into the dirt, Zimmerman drew a walk and Harper advanced to third.
With Ross on the mound and Werth at the plate, Harper scored and Zimmerman stole second, with an assist by Padres catcher Nick Hundley on a throwing error.
Rendon singled home Zimmerman before Wilson Ramos grounded into an RBI double play. Strasburg gave himself one more insurance run with an RBI single that brought home Rendon to make it 11-3 Nationals.
The Padres would go on to pull within four runs again of catching Washington – a pretty notable feat considering their slump as of late.
Nevertheless, the nine-games-below-.500 Padres fell short of a comeback as the Nationals celebrated an 11-7 win.
THE GOOD: Regardless of how the San Diego Padres have performed as of late, an 11-run rout is something the Washington Nationals should celebrate. Aside from pitchers, all but Tyler Moore, Wilson Ramos and Roger Bernadina (pinch-hitter) recorded hits Sunday afternoon.
Ryan Zimmerman went 1-for-3 with a grand slam, four resulting RBIs, two runs scored and a walk.
Bryce Harper nearly matched his effort, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored, an RBI and a walk.
Even Stephen Strasburg contributed a run and an RBI from the offensive side.
THE BAD: Strasburg walked away with a win, but it wasn’t without blotches on his record. He may have matched his season-high nine strikeouts, but he also allowed seven hits and hit three batters, never pitching a perfect inning.
THE UGLY: The Nationals placed LHP Ross Detwiler on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain, retroactive to July 4.
THE STATS: 11 R, 11 H, 7 BB, 6 K, 1 E (Desmond), 3 SB, 5-for-13 RISP, 7 LOB
NEXT GAME: Monday, 7:05 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park; Dan Haren (4-9, 6.15) vs. John Lannan (1-3, 5.15)