Sep 6, 2015, 4:42 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Some Nats fans and those in the media who follow the team on a regular basis may have looked past this weekend’s series against the Atlanta Braves, with the first-place New York Mets up next and all. But the Nationals themselves sure didn’t.
They blasted the Braves again on Sunday for their third blowout win in four days, capping off a four-game sweep to make it five straight wins overall as they get ready for the mighty Metropolitans. Their latest victory was a 8-4 demolition that was basically over in the second inning.
Rookie Joe Ross struggled for the second straight start, but it didn’t matter with the way the Nats’ offense has been rolling. They hit three homers in this one, including the third for Bryce Harper in as many games. He now has 34 on the season to match his jersey number.
Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon added home runs of their own. Michael Taylor returned to the starting lineup with a double and two RBI. Yunel Escobar added three hits for his 41st multi-hit game of the season in 119 total appearances. He’s notched three hits or more in 11 of those outings.
Sammy Solis, Casey Janssen, Felipe Rivero, Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon followed Ross to mop up the rest of this one. The win pushed the Nats to 71-65 on the season. They are six games over .500 for the first time since Aug. 1. They have won five straight games for just the fourth time this season and the first time since June 28 when they won a season-high eight in a row.
The Mets lost in walk-off fashion to the Miami Marlins on Sunday afternoon. That means the Nats will be down just four games entering this week’s series with a golden chance to gain some serious ground in the NL East.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: There were plenty of offensive highlights for the Nationals in this win, but it’s hard to top a five-run inning, which they accomplished in the second off Braves starter Manny Banuelos.
The rally started with a single by Escobar and a walk by Ian Desmond. Taylor came up two batters later and laced a double to the corner in left field. That scored both runners and provided an emphatic ‘welcome back’ moment for Taylor, who had been sidelined in recent games with a sore right knee.
That was a big hit, but it would be topped just two batters later. Ross was hit by a pitch on the hip to join Taylor on base. Both were then brought home on a rocket home run to left field by Werth. It was his seventh of the season and it scored three runs to put the Nats up four runs at the time.
Werth just continues to thrive in the leadoff spot. In 17 games hitting at the top of the order, Werth is now batting 23-for-70 (.329) with four homers, 11 RBI, seven doubles and 16 runs.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Ross entered Sunday looking to overcome the worst outing of his career, a six-walk disaster in St. Louis. He was better, at least early on, but still finished with some ugly numbers overall.
Ross again struggled with his command with three walks in 4 1/3 innings of work. He also gave up four earned runs – two of which came against Sammy Solis after he left – and failed to record a strikeout. Considering how good Ross was when he first came up this season at keeping his walk-rate down, that has to be concerning.
Ross, in fact, had 47 strikeouts to only four walks through his first seven MLB starts. In his last six he has only 21 strikeouts to 16 walks. The supreme command Ross showed early on has apparently escaped him. Whether it’s due to his workload – Ross reached 149 2/3 total innings on the season Sunday – or not, it has become an obvious issue for the rookie.
KEY STAT: The Nats finished this four-game sweep by outscoring their dormant rivals 36-8, an average score of 9-2 per game. That’s pure, unadulterated domination.
UP NEXT: The series we’ve all been waiting for. The first-place New York Mets come to town for a three-game set at Nationals Park. The first game is a 1:05 p.m. start on Labor Day with Max Scherzer (11-11, 2.89) and LHP Jon Niese (8-10, 4.17) set to start.
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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