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Nats 12, Phillies 2: Homer parade includes Harper’s 40th

Sep 16, 2015, 9:56 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals arrived in Philadelphia at the start of the week, understanding they were now playing out the string in every sense other than the mathematical sense, their deficit in the NL East too great to overcome with so little time left on the calendar. Maybe that lack of pressure, though, actually let this team go out and just play baseball for a change, unburdened by the pennant race for the first time all year.

Whatever the reason, the Nats club that showed up here looked everything like a powerhouse, nothing like the disappointing club of the previous 5 1/2 months that is going to come up short in the end. They crushed Phillies pitching, with Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper each homering four times in the series. (Harper launched his 40th of the season in this game, becoming only the second player in Nats history to join that club.) They got dominant starting pitching against the Phillies lineup, with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez combining to strike out 26 batters.

And so the Nationals pulled off their first road series sweep of the season, something they did five times last year. Too little, too late? Perhaps. But until they’re mathematically eliminated, they’ll keep playing these games.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: You think Werth enjoyed his time back in Philly this week? Always a crowd favorite — er, something like that — when he returns to his old stomping grounds, the veteran outfielder saved his best for this series. He homered twice on Monday. Then for good measure, he homered twice tonight. Werth launched a pair of solo shots (one in the fourth, one in the sixth) and further justified Matt Williams’ decision to move him to the cleanup spot last week, providing some protection for Harper. It’s been a difficult season for Werth, but his production over the last month has erased at least some of the questions about his ability to remain a potent offensive player heading into the final two years of his contract with the Nationals.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: You had a sense this would be a good night for Gonzalez when he retired the side in the first inning (striking out a pair) on only 12 pitches. That kind of efficiency is critical (and rare) for the left-hander, so it was a particularly positive omen this time. Sure enough, Gonzalez was in control all night, pounding the strike zone and then putting away the opposition. He wound up striking out 12, matching his career high.

KEY STAT: Harper is only the sixth player to record a 40-homer season before turning 23. Four of the others (Eddie Mathews, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Bench, Mel Ott) are in the Hall of Fame. The fifth (Juan Gonzalez) didn’t receive enough votes in his first year on the ballot amid suspicion of PED use.

UP NEXT: The Nationals return to D.C. for the final homestand of the season, beginning with a 4-game set against the Marlins. Tanner Roark (4-5, 4.38) faces Jarred Cosart (1-4, 4.58) in Thursday’s 7:05 p.m. opener.

  1. natsfan1a - Sep 16, 2015 at 10:13 PM

    That Jayson, always thinking of others. I think it was just swell of him to put on such a nice show for his erstwhile fanbase. What?

    “You think Werth enjoyed his time back in Philly this week? Always a crowd favorite — er, something like that — when he returns to his old stomping grounds, the veteran outfielder saved his best for this series.”

    • ArVAFan - Sep 16, 2015 at 10:20 PM

      Yeah, and he trotted slowly around the bases, giving everyone time to cheer him (or what passes for cheering in Philly).

      Silver lining for the Phillies Phans: with so few attending, and all those homers, great odds on a keepsake (see, Bryce exchanging signed balls for his 40th HR ball).

  2. npb99 - Sep 16, 2015 at 10:17 PM

    I’m such a sucker for this team, I’m letting myself dream and doing all sorts of calculations on the prospects that if just keep winning, and Mets just keep losing, then….
    You fool! Stop it!

    • patrickthand - Sep 16, 2015 at 10:22 PM

      Mets or Cubs.

    • NatsNut - Sep 17, 2015 at 7:19 AM

      Shhhhh.

  3. topnat - Sep 16, 2015 at 10:23 PM

    They’re not 7 back with 17 to go in my mind. They’re 4 back with 14 to go.

    • npb99 - Sep 16, 2015 at 10:32 PM

      Right. You have to count on us getting a sweep in that last series, otherwise the math is impossible. Can we make up enough games between now and then? Note they are playing the Yankees next, and us the Marlins. We need to make up one or two in that stretch. But then it’s the O’s for us, a bigger challenge.
      Hey, the dream isn’t entirely dead, right?

      • topnat - Sep 17, 2015 at 5:51 AM

        Its fun to think not. It’s my playoffs anyway. And the O’s are awful right now. Never underestimate the pucker factor for the Mets, a team with a fair amount of drama right now.

  4. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 16, 2015 at 10:55 PM

    If you didn’t see it live, make sure you watch the replay of Starling Marte’s 11th inning OF assist.

  5. whatsanattau - Sep 16, 2015 at 11:53 PM

    I never got my nesting dolls open — if I use brut force is it twist or pull.

    • Dave - Sep 17, 2015 at 6:55 AM

      Pry them loose with a table knife on the seam.

  6. whatsanattau - Sep 16, 2015 at 11:57 PM

    If Rendon, Werth, Span & Zimmerman each could have played 10 more games this year it probably would have been enough. (Also if Storen had played two less, but that’s just being too negative).

    • Danny - Sep 17, 2015 at 12:31 AM

      Not losing our last 6 to the Mets would have been grand

  7. Joe Seamhead - Sep 17, 2015 at 5:31 AM

    Amazing stat: The Phillies stuck out 42 times in the 3 game series.

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