If you’d told me the Nats would, without Ryan Zimmerman or Adam Dunn in the lineup, score seven runs, I’d have asked you if you meant in a single game, or over a whole week. The Nats got a boost from unexpected sources this afternoon, grabbing home runs from Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa as well as Michael Morse in their 7-2 victory. The win was their third straight, and they’ve got some momentum together as the Braves and Phillies come to DC for a pair of series that will end their home season.
The businessman’s special today meant a very light turnout at Nats Park, officially 14,633 but in reality more like 5,000, but those who came out saw the Nationals’ infield of Gonzalez, Desmond, Espinosa and Kennedy put on a defensive workshop. Each of the infielders today had a play that should be on tonight’s SportsCenter. In the 7th, Gonzalez speared a ball to his right, came up and rifled the ball across the diamond to the outstretched glove of Adam Kennedy. In the 3rd, Ian Desmond leapt for a ball just over his head, snagged the out, and threw to Kennedy to double off the pitcher Nelson Figueroa. Danny Espinosa would lay all the way out for a ball to his left in the 6th and flip it to Kennedy to get Michaels at first.
This was the sort of infield defense the Nats have struggled with all season long, and to see them execute so well tonight, it was a thrill. Manager Jim Riggleman, whose contract was just extended yesterday through the 2011 season, called it an “uplifting” night to see the strength come from the defensive side for once. Defense kept the evening short for Ross Detwiler, who picked up his first win tonight.
Detwiler went 6 full, giving up just two runs (both earned) and throwing 79 pitches. While he could have gone “a couple more,” the Nationals pulled him out of an abundance of caution. Detwiler’s been building his arm strength as part of his return to the bigs. Riggleman felt that he wasn’t try to blow the ball by anybody, but that “he was really pitching today.”
The Nationals send Jordan Zimmermann to the mound tomorrow to face the Braves’ Tim Hudson. Hudson has had the Nats’ number this season, he’s 2-0 in 4 appearances with a 1.57 ERA with 19 Ks. Only the Marlins fare worse against Hudson.
Just 9 games remain for the Nationals, who could lock up a 70-win season if they can go 5-4 against the Phillies, Braves and Mets.