For three months Washington Nationals fans have been waiting for something the cheer about. Sure since Werth came off the DL and Anthony Rendon was inserted at second the offense has averaged 4.27 runs a game, but the Nationals offense has still felt sluggish. They get shutout too often and until scoring 13 runs yesterday against the Mets hadn’t had that big offensive outburst. Tonight against the Brewers Nationals fans were given something to cheer, and cheer they did. The first ovation occurred when Bryce Harper was announced in the starting line-up, the second when he stepped to the plate, and the third, longest and loudest of all, when he hit an opposite field homerun in his first at bat off the DL.
At every turn Bryce Harper has written his own story. He wanted to play in the majors, and was finished with high school, and so he got his GED, went to JUCO, and got drafted one year early. Then he wanted to play in the majors as soon as possible. Harper never tore apart the minors but he did put on a show in the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training and soon earned a call-up to the Nationals at the age of 19, and he ended up winning the Rookie of the Year and being one of the best 19 year olds to ever play the game. Then this season he had a list of private goals. Among them was probably to win the MVP. A goal that may have been derailed by the right field wall in Dodger’s stadium.
It is yet to be determined what Harper’s final season line would look like, but with as much time as he missed it would have to be far and away better than the next closest. Those personal goals may be in the scrapper, but there are still the team goals. The Nationals are now 6.0 games back from the Braves with 80 left to play, and it isn’t as uncommon as some might think for a team to come back from that type of deficit. Especially a team with the talent that the Nationals have. Talent that was finally on display as the Nats routed the Brewers 10-5.
Most of the damage for the Nationals came off of Brewers starter Yavoni Gallardo who is the exact type of pitcher the Nationals struggled against earlier in the season, a struggling Ace trying to combat sudden loss of velocity. If this were earlier in the season though the Nationals wouldn’t have had the same line-up. LaRoche and Zimmerman started the season off in a tremendous slump with Zimmerman spending a little time on the DL. Danny Espinosa started the season at second base and was never able to overcome an injured rotator cuff that he is now dealing with in AAA.
This different look, deeper, and more dangerous Nats line-up was able to put up eight runs against Gallardo with most of the damage coming in a five run third which saw the Nationals send nine men to the plate and hit four doubles with a single and a walk. It was a display of power and aggression seldom seen from the Nationals this season. It is the display of talent all Nationals fans knew was there but that the team wouldn’t let come forth, and now that it finally has it is hard to imagine the Nationals slowing down.
After the five run third the Nationals would add two in the fourth with a Zimmermann single, Span double, and Werth single. They would then let the Brewers come back pulling within three at one point with two runs on three singles and a ground out in the fifth, two solo shots from Weeks and Francisco in the sixth, and a single and a double in the seventh. The Nationals would tack on their final two insurance runs on a fielding error and infield single after a Tracy pinch hit double and Denard Span walk.
From the beginning of the game when Harper was announced to the end when Abad struck out Carlos Gomez looking Washington Nationals fans had something to cheer about. They had the game they have been waiting for. The game where everything clicked, and a game that could be the start of something. After beating the Mets 13-2 to close out the series in New York and trouncing the Brewers 10-5 to start the seven game homestand the Nationals have Stephen Strasburg pitching tomorrow, Harper back in the line-up, and could be heading into the All-Star Break in two weeks fresh off of a big run.