Aug 25, 2015, 10:14 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: It took 124 games, but Matt Williams finally had the opportunity to fill out his original, projected lineup, thanks to Denard Span’s return from a two-month stay on the DL with a lower back injury. And wouldn’t you know that long-awaited, complete lineup put together one of the Nationals’ best all-around offensive performances of the season?
All eight regulars reached base by the sixth inning, with all eight runs driven in with two outs. Wilson Ramos got things started with a 2-run homer down the left-field line in the bottom of the second. Yunel Escobar, who also returned after missing two games with a neck injury, drove in another run in the third, while Ian Desmond put together a nice at-bat to drop a 3-2 pitch into right field for a 2-out RBI double in the fifth.
The biggest blow, though, came from Ryan Zimmerman, who with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth launched a Bud Norris fastball to right-center field for a grand slam that left the crowd of 34,199 roaring with approval. That blast came two batters after Bryce Harper drew a walk a couple pitches after tapping a grounder to first that plate umpire David Rackley said struck Harper on the foot, a close call that ultimately got Padres manager Pat Murphy ejected.
Stephen Strasburg made the most of all that run support, tossing six innings of 2-run ball to continue his dominant stretch since returning from his own DL stint. And thus at the end of the night, the Nationals were able to celebrate their first 3-game winning streak since the All-Star break.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Here’s the perfect example of what a healthy lineup means for the Nationals: Zimmerman can hit sixth. The Face of the Franchise hasn’t done that much during his decade in the big leagues, but it puts him in a position to come up to bat with a lot of guys on base and drive them in. Like he did in the bottom of the sixth. Stepping to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, Zimmerman did what he does very well: Drive a ball to right-center field. This one just cleared the out-of-town scoreboard for a grand slam, the fifth of his career. The ballpark exploded as Zim rounded the bases, having blown the game open and earning a curtain call from the appreciative crowd.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: With each passing start, Strasburg distances himself further and further from the pitcher who looked like a wreck during the season’s first couple of months. He has maintained a consistent level of dominance since returning from his latest DL stint, and tonight retired 15 straight batters after serving up a 2-run homer to Jedd Gyorko in the top of the second. Strasburg appeared extra pumped for this one, consistently hitting 97-98 mph on his fastball (and locating it, as well). In seven starts dating back to his first DL stint this season, he is now 5-1 with a 1.51 ERA, 50 strikeouts and seven walks.
KEY STAT: The Nationals are now 36-24 when Span plays this season, 27-37 when he doesn’t.
UP NEXT: Gio Gonzalez (9-6, 3.98) takes the mound for the Nationals on Wednesday night, going up against Joe Ross’ older brother Tyson (8-9, 3.32) at 7:05 p.m.
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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