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Nats 7, Cubs 5: New-look lineup delivers in key win

Jun 5, 2015, 10:03 PM EST

AP

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: His lineup mired in a slump approaching two weeks, Matt Williams decided to try something different on Friday. Struggling Ryan Zimmerman was moved up to the No. 2 spot. Bryce Harper took over No. 3 duties, with fresh-off-the-DL Anthony Rendon entrusted with the cleanup spot. Whether those changes made a difference is debatable, but the end result was not. For the first time in a while, the Nationals looked like a potent offensive team.

Danny Espinosa provided the biggest blow, a 3-run homer in the bottom of the second that outproduced the Nationals’ entire offensive output from the previous 24 innings. Michael Taylor and Denard Span provided key RBI in the fourth. And then the Nats added some big insurance runs late thanks to RBI doubles from Wilson Ramos and Dan Uggla.

Those extra run became helpful after Tanner Roark faded in the top of the sixth, serving up a pair of homers that turned a 5-1 lead into a 5-4 lead. The Nats bullpen clamped down after that, though, with Aaron Barrett, Casey Janssen and Blake Treinen combining to finish off the sixth, seventh and eighth innings and set the stage for Drew Storen to notch his league-leading 18th save in 19 tries (though not until he had allowed a run and brought the tying runner to the plate).

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Funny how this game works sometimes. Espinosa appeared headed to the bench again after Rendon came off the DL on Thursday. But when Yunel Escobar injured his right wrist in the first inning, Espinosa found himself back in the game and in the lineup Friday night. And wouldn’t you know he made the most of the opportunity, launching a 3-run homer in the bottom of the second. That shot sailed over the left-field bullpen, a monstrous homer that was Espinosa’s seventh of the season. He later added a double down the left-field line to add to a big night at the plate.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Has time in the bullpen actually made Roark a harder-throwing, better starter? It has certainly appeared that way at times during the right-hander’s three starts so far in 2015. Roark used to throw 92-93 mph. Suddenly he’s throwing 95-96 mph, even when starting, as was the case Friday night. He got Kris Bryant looking at a 96 mph fastball that also tailed considerably back over the plate like a 2-seamer. He cruised for five innings, allowing one run while striking out five. Roark did hit a wall in the sixth, though, serving up another homer to Rizzo and then one to Miguel Montero before getting pulled. He’s probably still working his arm up to the point where he’s just as strong throwing 90-plus pitches as he used to be, but that should come over time.

KEY STAT: Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa have accounted for 45 percent of the Nats’ home runs this season (25 of 56).

UP NEXT: Note the early, 12:05 p.m. start time Saturday (done to accommodate the Nats’ annual charity gala later that evening). It’ll be Joe Ross making his MLB debut, called up from Class AA Harrisburg, facing right-hander Jason Hammel (4-2, 2.82).

  1. scnatsfan - Jun 5, 2015 at 10:10 PM

    I have to say I was all for trading Espi for a large two topping pizza but I was wrong about the guy

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 5, 2015 at 10:39 PM

      If you said it in the off-season, you were probably right about trading him for a decent prospect and a pizza. He’s been solid in most aspects.

    • npb99 - Jun 5, 2015 at 11:23 PM

      We all were.

    • natsfan1a - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:12 AM

      Speaking of pizza, hat tip to Huggla for the 50% off. Niice…

  2. Hiram Hover - Jun 5, 2015 at 10:29 PM

    Good win – They needed this. Ok, I needed this.

    I would have been ok with a blowout, but this works too.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 5, 2015 at 10:43 PM

      +1

    • scnatsfan - Jun 5, 2015 at 10:46 PM

      Counts the same as a win in game 162

  3. senators5 - Jun 5, 2015 at 11:03 PM

    Simply stated it is great AR is back Now if we can get RZ and ID back we will be OK down the home stretch because the NL EAST is flat out bad and a mediocre BP or not will get the Nats over the top..

    • manassasnatsfan - Jun 5, 2015 at 11:26 PM

      The Mets have pitching so they are not terrible. The others…..

  4. conatsguy - Jun 5, 2015 at 11:25 PM

    Ho hum.. 3 outta 5 from the cubbies. Let’s win the season series OK?

    • manassasnatsfan - Jun 6, 2015 at 12:33 AM

      Nats back in first.

  5. manassasnatsfan - Jun 5, 2015 at 11:28 PM

    Jason Hamels has had our number. Hopefully not tomorrow.

  6. manassasnatsfan - Jun 5, 2015 at 11:31 PM

    Goldschmidt knocks in run 2 Toma’s run 3. DBacks up 3-2 bottom of 6.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 6, 2015 at 12:09 AM

      4-2, Snakes, still hitting in the bottom of the eight.

  7. sec112 - Jun 5, 2015 at 11:47 PM

    Not sure if this was discussed in the game thread, but while I was glad to see Williams experimenting with the line-up. I don’t think the answer is to put RZ in front of Harper. His OBP is poor and he has no speed, which will reduce the value of Harper’s speed (as it did today, but also in other ways). Maybe he was just there in Escobar’s absence, but I don’t see it working.

    • manassasnatsfan - Jun 6, 2015 at 12:07 AM

      I do like Rendon behind Harper.

      How about Espi second and RZim 7th

    • Karl Kolchak - Jun 6, 2015 at 12:12 AM

      Desmond would probably be the better choice…his OBP is similar to Ryan’s, but at least he’d be able to stay out of Harper’s way.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:52 AM

      I wrote the same. Get RZim going in the #7. He saw fastballs yesterday and the day before and the day before that and couldn’t hit it so all he did in actuality in the game was cause Bryce and easy RBI and a triple for Bryce and a potentially big inning by not running. I heard MW’s comments after the game making an excuse that RZim had to hold up on that to make sure it wasn’t going to be caught.

  8. manassasnatsfan - Jun 6, 2015 at 12:34 AM

    Arizona 7 mets 2 final

    • conatsguy - Jun 6, 2015 at 12:39 AM

      Feels Good!

  9. conatsguy - Jun 6, 2015 at 12:38 AM

    Snakes BP retire the last 14 Mets batters. Win 7-2

    Nats with the 1/2 game lead in the NLE!

    GYFNG!

    That is All…

  10. veejh - Jun 6, 2015 at 12:39 AM

    new thread

  11. conatsguy - Jun 6, 2015 at 2:45 AM

    Tanner Roark needs to be in this rotation. Keep stretching him out. Was fillfy until the 5th, when he was gassed.

    I’m pulling for Ross tomorrow, but it will be a tough assignment against Hammel.

    Keep Stras on ice until he screams for a spot in this rotation. Don’t push him out there until he is healthy and hungry. He will be then be a force to be reckoned with.

  12. richardp6 - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:01 AM

    omg. what rationale can there be for putting RZ up 2nd with a .216 BA whose only redemption this year has been his RBI and now he’s in a slot that will see less opportunities? Plus he’s slow. They may have scored a bunch of runs but it was BP against the cubs pitcher last night. I am ok with Harper up third normally if they had a true cleanup hitter but they don’t so he needs to go back to cleanup. Why tinker with Harper?

    Most disturbing is their fundamentals though. their gaffes are staggering to watch. My wife who doesn’t know much about baseball says they look like buffoons at times out there on the diamond especially baserunning. They need to stop giving additional outs to the opposition. MW needs to come down hard. He actually brushed off Harper’s gaffe last night( and what’s up with him not even trying to keep a rundown going?

  13. nattygoats - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:53 AM

    How can you keep a rundown going with somebody standing on third? Like Richard Gere. He had know here else to go

    • ccallahan15 - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:04 AM

      +1. Harper kept running because Zimmermann ran past third. Harp put the jets on and Zim put the breaks on. No where for harper to go and zim wouldn’t have run if harper played around. It looked different in person.

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