Jul 2, 2014, 9:17 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Seeking a 3-game sweep of the Rockies and a 5-game winning streak overall, the Nationals dug themselves into an early hole when Michael McKenry launched a 3-run homer off Doug Fister in the top of the second. Fister, though, settled down after that, and even when the right-hander gave up hard-hit balls, his teammates had his back with several fine defensive plays. Ian Desmond, Denard Span, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman all earned stars for highlight-reel plays, with Zimmerman making a pair of them in his third game back at third base.
That bought time for the Nationals lineup to figure out left-hander Tyler Matzek, which they were able to do by night’s end. A suddenly red-hot Jayson Werth clubbed a 2-run homer in the bottom of the fourth. Harper then hustled his way to the game-tying run, ultimately scoring on Desmond’s RBI single. And Desmond capped it all off three innings later with his 15th homer of the season (originally ruled a triple by umpires but changed to a home run after review in New York).
So that left the game in the hands of the Nationals’ bullpen, which got the job done yet again. Tyler Clippard struck out Troy Tulowitzki to quash a potential rally in the eighth. Rafael Soriano then finished it off for his 20th save in 21 opportunities. And thus the Nats completed their sweep of Colorado. They’ve now won 9 of 12 to improve to a season-best 8 games over .500.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Maybe Werth knew what he was talking about when he said a well-stuck foul ball in the first inning Tuesday night might be just what he needed to get jump-started at the plate. All he has done since then is go 4-f0r-7 with two doubles, a homer, five RBI and two walks. This after going 42 plate appearances without any extra-base hits. His 2-run shot in the bottom of the fourth tonight was only his seventh of the season, a surprisingly low number for a guy who slugged 25 of them last year. But perhaps he’s about to go on a sustained tear at the plate, something the Nationals would love at this point.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This wasn’t typical Fister. Even when he recorded outs, most were in the air. He notched only six groundball outs in seven innings of work. He also served up a towering, 3-run homer to McKenry in the top of the second that put his team in an early hole. But the big right-hander still was able to be effective. He suffered no damage after that early blast, he relied on his defense to make some really nice plays. And, most importantly, he made the Rockies earn whatever they got at the plate. For the sixth time in 11 starts this season, Fister did not walk a batter. Over 70 2/3 total innings now with the Nationals, he has 42 strikeouts and only six walks.
KEY STAT: Ten of Desmond’s 15 homers this season have either tied the game or given the Nationals the lead.
UP NEXT: The Nationals are off tomorrow, but they’d be wise to get to bed early because they’ll be back at the park super-early on Friday. Yes, it’s the annual 11:05 a.m. Independence Day extravaganza, with the Cubs coming to town for the festivities. Tanner Roark faces Jason Hammel in a rematch of last Friday’s game at Wrigley Field, won by Chicago.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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