May 12, 2015, 12:23 AM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: After sweeping the Braves to complete a impressive homestand, the Nationals headed west, hoping their red-hot bats would continue to show up in the hot, dry, desert air. Did it ever. The Nats blasted Josh Collmenter out of Chase Field, piling up 10 runs in the game’s first two innings to take a commanding lead on the Diamondbacks that was never in doubt.
Denard Span sent Collmenter’s second pitch of the night over the right-field fence to get things started. Ryan Zimmerman launched a 3-run homer later in the first inning. Wilson Ramos later cleared the bases with a double in the second to pile on. Bryce Harper didn’t even homer, but his impact was still felt; he came with a couple feet of the right-field foul pole in the first inning, then singled home a run in the second. And Yunel Escobar, only seven days after a 5-for-5 night in D.C., did it again, the cherry on top of this blowout.
Handed a 10-0 lead, Max Scherzer had the luxury of going right after Arizona’s hitters without fear of suffering any major damage. The right-hander cruised, tossing seven innings of 1-run ball to earn his third win of the season.
Thus the Nationals extended their winning streak to a season-high five games. They’ve won 11 of their last 13 and thanks to the Mets’ loss in Chicago now trail in the NL East by a mere 2 1/2 games.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: There were plenty of candidates in this one, from Zimmerman’s towering 3-run homer in the first to Ramos’ 14-game hitting streak. But this night (as several over the last month) belonged to Escobar. For the second time in a week, the veteran infielder went 5-for-5, each one of them singles. In the process, he becomes the first player in Nats history with a pair of 5-hit games in the same season. He nearly had a chance to become the first D.C. major-leaguer with a 6-hit game since 1944, but the Nationals couldn’t get him back to the plate in the ninth.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Yes, it’s much easier to pitch with a 10-run lead than without a 10-run lead. But not every pitcher is good at attacking hitters in that situation and making sure the opposition doesn’t even sniff the possibility of a comeback. So don’t discount Scherzer’s performance in this game. He was in complete control from the get-go, retiring the first six batters he faced on 21 pitches and completing four scoreless innings on 40 pitches (31 strikes). The Diamondbacks did get to him in the sixth on Jordan Pacheco’s solo homer, but that was a minor hiccup on an otherwise sparkling night for Scherzer, who continues to pitch like a true ace.
KEY STAT: In the span of 40 minutes Monday night, Collmenter’s ERA rose from 3.40 to 5.27.
UP NEXT: Stephen Strasburg makes his return to the mound Tuesday night, his first start since experiencing discomfort underneath his shoulder blade against the Marlins. He’ll face right-hander Rubby De La Rosa at 9:40 p.m. EDT.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
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)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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