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Nats 9, Braves 2: Harper, Espinosa each homer twice

May 8, 2015, 9:27 PM EST

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals dug themselves into an early hole with a bit of sloppy play (dropped throws to the plate, runners straying too far off base) and poor at-bats against left-hander Eric Stults. But the tide quickly turned after that, thanks to a long-awaited blast from an old friend … and then two more from a very familiar face.

Jayson Werth’s fourth-inning homer (his first of the season) got the Nationals going and ignited the rest of the lineup. Bryce Harper launched his fourth homer in seven at-bats to give the Nats the lead in the sixth, then Danny Espinosa added his own in the seventh for a big insurance run. Oh, and then Harper added another one for good measure, launching a 3-run shot to right in the eighth for his fifth homer in eight games, earning another curtain call. And then Espinosa did it again himself, sending his second homer in as many innings over the wall in left to turn this game into a rout.

Gio Gonzalez pitched exceptionally well, going seven innings before handing things over to the bullpen. Rookie Matt Grace delivered an important scoreless frame in the eighth, and Blake Treinen finished it off with a scoreless ninth, sending the Nationals to their eighth win in 10 games and getting them back to the .500 mark overall.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Werth’s first homer of the season deserves to be highlighted. So do Espinosa’s two left-handed homers. But who are we kidding, it’s all about Harper right now. Forty-eight hours after his 3-homer afternoon against the Marlins, he was back in full force against the Braves. He took Stults deep to left-center in the sixth and then greeted Williams Perez (making his MLB debut) with a towering, 3-run bomb to right that earned the 22-year-old his second curtain call in as many games. Harper now is tied with Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier for the NL lead with 10 homers while also leading MLB with 26 walks. That’s an impressive combo, a pair of league-leading stats typically reserved for only the game’s very best hitters. Harper is beginning to prove he belongs in that discussion.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: It wasn’t perfect, but this was a really, really good start by Gonzalez. Yes, he allowed two early runs, but those were aided in part by Andrelton Simmons sticking his foot out of the batter’s box to get hit by a pitch and by Wilson Ramos dropping a 1-hop throw that would’ve beat Simmons to the plate two innings later. After that, Gonzalez was fantastic, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced. He wound up issuing only one walk while striking out eight, and his pitch count of 103 was more than manageable.

KEY STAT: Over the last two seasons, Freddie Freeman owns a .294 batting average. Take out his 42-for-91 against the Nationals, though, and that batting average drops to .269.

UP NEXT: The series continues at 4:05 p.m. Saturday when Doug Fister (2-1, 2.61) faces Julio Teheran (3-1, 3.82). Be sure to get to the ballpark early for pregame ceremonies honoring former manager Frank Robinson.

  1. Mrsb loves the Nats - May 8, 2015 at 9:31 PM

    Never in doubt…. but what a hitting clinic by Bryce and Danny and Jayson..

    Nice win Nats… nice win.

    • Joe Seamhead - May 8, 2015 at 9:36 PM

      +5

  2. ehay2k - May 8, 2015 at 9:34 PM

    And, the Nats are now in 2nd place in the NL East. We are coming Mets, we are coming.

    • NatsNut - May 8, 2015 at 10:30 PM

      +1

  3. ArVAFan - May 8, 2015 at 9:35 PM

    N-A-T-S NATS NATS NATS WOO!

    (sorry I couldn’t be there in person, but that will have to do).

    Probably the best stat of all, courtesy of Chelsea Janes: Gio Gonzalez struck out eight or more batters four times last season. He has now struck out eight or more in three straight games. “Number four starter?” You should be so lucky.

  4. Joe Seamhead - May 8, 2015 at 9:35 PM

    “PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: It wasn’t perfect, but this was a really, really good start by Gonzalez. Yes, he allowed two early runs, but those were aided in part by Andrelton Simmons sticking his foot out of the batter’s box to get hit by a pitch and by Wilson Ramos dropping a 1-hop throw that would’ve beat Simmons to the plate two innings later”

    I agree with Mr. Zuckerman. Most good catchers make that catch.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 9:37 PM

      How do you drop something you never had. He didn’t catch a tough hop. And where did Mark say “most good catchers make that catch”?

      • Joe Seamhead - May 8, 2015 at 9:51 PM

        Mark said one of the runs was aided by Ramos dropping a 1-hop throw. I agree with him.”most good catchers make the catch” was my opinion, and a second sentence. You are defensive and supportive of Ramos, which I respect, but you are sometimes overly sensitive to fair criticism of a weakness to his game, in my opinion.. I get the same way about Span.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 10:01 PM

        Yeah, I didn’t think Mark would say that. Short hops to a catcher are a crapshoot. I don’ t know the percentages because they don’t keep those stats.

        Maybe someone can do it. If the writers thought this was an issue, I’m sure they would ask MW.

        It’s a broken record from you and a few others. Funny on that play was Span didn’t field it cleanly and it bounced away but he made a perfect throw to Espi but Espi bounced the short throw home. Oh well. Nats win. Bench Ramos who is batting .319 if you think that’s the move or work with him on getting better at it.

      • sec105rowwseat28 - May 8, 2015 at 10:17 PM

        Just because Espi bounced the throw doesn’t make it a bad throw. It was right on line and in time to get the runner. Ramos should have at least handled it and gotten a tag on.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 8, 2015 at 10:28 PM

        When have I ever said that I thought Ramos should be benched? Last year when he hurt his hand at the start of the season I was, as a fan of him, devastated for him and for the team.

      • nataddicted - May 8, 2015 at 10:30 PM

        When the catcher is receiving a throw to the plate it is a difficult play. He’s got a lot of moving parts to keep track of. So I don’t ding Ramos for not making that catch-and-tag play. Espi’s throw I think was appropriate, not a short-hop for sure. He sure does have a gun, thinking of the play where Yuni is spiked, that throw was a bullet.

      • letswin3 - May 8, 2015 at 11:35 PM

        First, it was NOT a short hop, it hopped waist high. Wilson has routinely dropped those throws over the last 2 seasons, plus at least two this season that I remember. I too do NOT want to bench him, but I think big league catchers have to make that play. Moreover, those making the long throws to the plate are taught to bounce it in there. I’m a Ramos fan, but he just has a problem with those throws.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 9, 2015 at 8:29 AM

        LMAO, Yadier Molina dropped one last night! It even happens with the best!

      • letswin3 - May 9, 2015 at 2:27 PM

        Routinely?

      • Joe Seamhead - May 9, 2015 at 9:11 AM

        Jeez, Steve, Yadier CAUGHT THE BALL, but McCutchen knocked it out on the tag. The point being made here is that Ramos again didn’t field the ball, which was a good peg from Espinosa, whether you think a bounce to the catcher is a good throw , or not.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 9, 2015 at 9:21 AM

        It was never firmly in the mitt and it popped out but if that was Ramos I’m sure you’d trash him.

    • knoxvillenat - May 8, 2015 at 9:38 PM

      Joe,

      I agree with you. Most ML catchers handle that throw despite Ghost’s protests to the contrary. Ramos has a deficiency in that regard and Bo Porter knew it.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 9:44 PM

        It’s the same stupid thing. Most don’t handle short hops. Many do and Ramos has made several short hops so far if you care to give credit. Werth to Desi to Ramos. Harper to Espi to Ramos. It didn’t happen tonight.

        Turn the page. It’s a broken record.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 8, 2015 at 10:34 PM

        +1, Knox.

  5. trom1 - May 8, 2015 at 9:35 PM

    Mets loose.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 9:35 PM

    Mets lose. 3 1/2 separating Nats and Mets. Harvey can lose a game.

    • ehay2k - May 8, 2015 at 9:36 PM

      And, Harvey can’t pitch the whole season.

  7. knoxvillenat - May 8, 2015 at 9:35 PM

    And the Mutts lose to Colbert and the Filthies.

  8. Allnats - May 8, 2015 at 9:41 PM

    Sorry if I’m being picky… But I think its 5 hrs in TWO games!!!!! Not eight

  9. infideljack - May 8, 2015 at 9:41 PM

    When Rendon gets back, Desi rides the pine, not Espinosa.

    • Danny - May 8, 2015 at 9:45 PM

      Not happening.

  10. David Proctor - May 8, 2015 at 9:45 PM

    Incredible display by Bryce. Just speechless. He’s getting his pitch and not missing it. And I loved to see him talking with Steve McCatty afterward. I don’t know what they were talking about, but after reading that he would talk to Max Scherzer about how opposing pitchers are approaching him, I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s having similar chats with McCatty.

    I don’t want to focus too much on it and be a debbie downer, but someone please work with Ramos on catching those throws from the outfield. I’m sure he has worked on it. It’s just perplexing how a guy who is amazing at catching everything behind the dish can’t catch it when it’s a position player throwing to him. It’s like catcher-yips.

  11. manassasnatsfan - May 8, 2015 at 9:59 PM

    Freeman 2 more doubles. If he hit every team like he hits us he would bat an easy 400.

    Glad we are back to .500 3.5 behind the Mets.

    1 game at a time 1 series at a time.

  12. Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 10:02 PM

    A little more than a week ago the Mets had a 8 game lead in the NL East. Now at 3.5 games.

  13. Joe Seamhead - May 8, 2015 at 10:02 PM

    Gio pitched a superb game, the five homers by the boys were great, Matt Grace was Amazing Grace, and Escobar keeps looking like one of Rizzo’s best moves yet.I am happy for Werth and Espinosa, both of whom have have been vilified by many on here and other sites. Great win all around!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 10:37 PM

      Werth has been vilified very unfairly and I still don’t get the hate but then again, maybe I do.

      Espinosa has been getting decent comments. His RISP hitting has to get better and his 2 strike hitting still needs work but he is looking the best he has in his career.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 8, 2015 at 10:44 PM

        I am happy for both of them tonight. They both made big contributions to a great team win.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 10:47 PM

        As I said to a poster, even though Jayson’s contributions on the stat sheet were lacking, he brings that leadership that Bryce talked about in the post-game and the team is 12-8 when Werth plays this season.

    • NatsNut - May 8, 2015 at 10:37 PM

      Gio was remarkably different and good tonight.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 11:07 PM

        Last 2 starts he showed zero frustration. The ump blew 2 good pitches early and it didn’t frazzle Gio.

  14. Joe Seamhead - May 8, 2015 at 10:10 PM

    Caps lose in OT

    • natfan33 - May 8, 2015 at 10:12 PM

      The Rangers goal with 1:41 left in the game to tie it was a backbreaker. Can only hope the Caps can finish it out in game 6.

  15. natfan33 - May 8, 2015 at 10:10 PM

    Catch the ball Wilson. Tonight’s wasn’t a short hop, it was a perfect hop.

  16. stoatva - May 8, 2015 at 10:23 PM

    I thought Span deserved the error. If he picks it up cleanly I don’t think Simmons tries to score. That said, I’ve been at the game so I reserve the right to change my mind after seeing the replay.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 10:33 PM

      It ran up his leg. Sure, you want him to field it cleanly and you’re right, they don’t send Simmons if it’s fielded cleanly but he made a great throw to Espi.

  17. Section 222 - May 8, 2015 at 10:28 PM

    What a night at the park! I ran into NL after the 3rd inning and noted that we had already seen a K by Desi with a man on 3rd and 1 out. Then a K by Espi with a man on 3rd with 2 outs and a dropped throw by Ramos. Same old Nats. And then Werth, Bryce and, yes, Espi took over. What a power display. 5 HRs in 8 ABs is just ridiculous.

    So now for the humble pie with a side of crow. I guess I’ll just keep saying Uggla should start instead of Espi, if this is the way he’s going to make me look like an idiot. Not just the HRs, but the spectacular catch to end the game. I tip my cap to him.

  18. zmunchkin - May 8, 2015 at 10:29 PM

    Frank Howard once hit 10 HRs in 20 ABs (might have been PAs – not sure).

    Bryce has 5 in 8 ABs.

    Can he get 6 more in his next 12 ABs??????

    • manassasnatsfan - May 8, 2015 at 10:38 PM

      As I recall in was 1968 though possibly 69. The 10th homer cleared the roof in left field in Tiger Stadium (on a Saturday was one of the 35 televised games on channel 9)

      • Steady Eddie - May 8, 2015 at 11:09 PM

        It was May 1968. I remember WTOP that would televise the Nats (as the headline writers frequently called them) used Cream’s “Toad” (with that incredible Ginger Baker drum solo) as their intro music for the games — that literally was what introduced me to Cream’s music as it was not only great, it would totally psych me up for Hondo’s next amazing blasts during that streak.

        And it was 10 HRs in 20 ABs.

  19. NatsNut - May 8, 2015 at 10:29 PM

    Im surprised to hear myself say that danny should have gotten player of the game.

    What? I like the taste of crow. So sue me. 😉

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 10:40 PM

      They were add-on runs and Bryce’s was a come-from-behind 2 run HR that turned out to be the GW RBIs. Gio was the #2 star. Espi the #3 star.

    • scnatsfan - May 8, 2015 at 11:11 PM

      You are not alone eating crow. Happily.

  20. Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 10:42 PM

    That’s back-to-back nice starts by Gio. He wasn’t hitting his spots tonight but had enough movement on his pitches that it worked. That doubleplay liner that RZim caught was the defensive play of the game. That’s a double and scores the runner if RZim doesn’t get that.

    • Theophilus T.S. - May 8, 2015 at 11:09 PM

      Third straight good start by Gonzalez. The one where he gave up eight hits and two runs in six innings but gutted thru 100+ pitches was impressive in its own right because he pulled thru adversity — some of his own — without going exorcist on us. I thought that was a turning point. He’s been so inconsistent and at times self-destructive the last two seasons it drove me crazy. For the moment I’m thinking he’s going to do it every time out. Ignominy can be as fleeting as fame.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 11:17 PM

        I’m with you. I actually enjoyed watching Gio tonight but did want him pulled when the Barves announced the RH pinch-hitter. Luckily it worked out. I think the score was just 3-2 there.

  21. Section 222 - May 8, 2015 at 10:46 PM

    Don’t look now, but the Nats are back to .500. First time since April 21. And they were six games under after the losing streak. It was a slog, but they made it. Maybe we can sweep this series and leave .500 behind for good.

    A new addition to the Bryce repeatable lexicon — “Have some fun.” I hope he has some fun, every single day.

  22. Theophilus T.S. - May 8, 2015 at 11:19 PM

    Grace was cool under pressure. Strangely, he is not the pitcher that was advertised. He said to be an 88-90 mph guy with a slider but he’s hitting 92, which is fine for a LH, and has nice diversity with a 79 curve. Treinen has a week or so before Janssen returns (arrives?) and needs a couple more cleanup opportunities like tonite to straighten out his command before he goes down.

  23. Theophilus T.S. - May 8, 2015 at 11:28 PM

    Final thought — unless provoked. Harper doubled, tripled, quadrupled down on his optimism tonight. Said “We’re a great team” three times post game. Leaders need to say that, teams need to hear that from their leaders. He’s grown a foot in the last seven months.

  24. Sec 3, My Sofa - May 8, 2015 at 11:33 PM

    Someone was asking about this earlier

    NIDO+ Drinks Owed, spreadsheet, glossary, and Who’s Going When

  25. BatBoy - May 8, 2015 at 11:34 PM

    GYFNG!

  26. virginiascopist - May 9, 2015 at 5:56 AM

    Here’s the lines from Gio and format Nats pitcher Nate Karns who earned the win against the Rangers:

    Gio: 7 IP / 5 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 8 SO
    Nate: 7 IP / 4 H / 2 ER / 2 BB / 9 SO

    Congrats to both.

    • ArVAFan - May 9, 2015 at 7:24 AM

      +1

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