There are always moments where good teams look within themselves when challenged, take said challege head on, and rise above and prosper. It seems that the challenge for the 2015 Nationals was the hellacious comeback at Atlanta on April 29th from a 8 run deficit to end a 6 game losing streak. Since that moment, the Nats have won nine of their next 11 games while Bryce Harper had the week of a lifetime to place himself as one of the games premier players.
May 4-6 vs Miami
In Game 1, The Nats trailed in both the 7th and 8th innings, each time they did what was necessary as Yunel Escobar had his first 5-hit game including the game winning 2-run single in the 8th as the Nats defeated the Marlins 6-4. Jordan Zimmermann kept the game close for 7 innings giving up only 1 earned run and six hits. Matt Grace earned his 1st victory of the season and former starter Tanner Roark pitched the 9th to earn his first save of the young season.
Stephen Strasburg left game 2 vs Miami after 3 innings for precautionary measures as he grimaced after throwing a second inning pitch. A pitchers duel ensued between Mat Latos of the Marlins and four Nats relievers which ended in a 2-1 loss. Strasburg (2-3) left for a pinch hitter in the third inning after allowing two runs in the 2nd inning and throwing 64 pitches.
Bryce Harper’s historic afternoon and a solid 7 2/3 innings by Max Scherzer gave the Nats a series win for the 3rd consecutive series in a 7-5 win. Harper became the fourth player in Nationals history (Soriano 2006, Dunn 2010, Ryan Zimmerman 2013) to have a three homer game. Harper hit a 393-foot solo shot in the second inning, a 442-foot, two-run drive in the third and a 445-foot bases-empty homer in the fifth, the last two reaching the second deck. In his final plate apperance of the day with a chance to make history, he stayed patient and delivered a run scoring groundout. Scherzer (2-3) struck out 10 and allowed five runs and 10 hits over seven-plus innings. He entered with a 1.26 ERA but Washington scored a total of two runs in his three defeats. Drew Storen pitched the ninth inning for his eight save of the season.
May 8-10 vs Atlanta
In game one vs the hated Braves, Bryce Harper continued his scorching power bat by delivering two more homers along with five RBIs, giving him five in the last 2 games as Gio Gonzalez won his 3rd start of the season in a 9-2 drubbing. The Nationals backed Gonzalez (3-2) wo pitched seven solid innings after going 0-7 in his previous eight starts against Atlanta. After giving up runs in the first and third innings, Gonzalez settled in and retired 11 straight batters at one stretch. He allowed five hits overall while striking out eight and walking one. Along with Harper’s two bombs, matching that output was Danny Espinoza with two of his own. Harper became the first National in team history to have five homers in 2 games, along with 10 RBIs.
With a chance to send his team over the .500 mark for the first time this season, to keep his torrid hitting alive, Bryce Harper, who has always had a flair for the dramatics, delivered again with a 2-run walkoff to right center for a 8-6 victory. After blowing a 5 run lead, Bryce’s heroics extended the Nationals current winning streak to three games and 9 victories out of 11. Starting pitcher Doug Fister took a three hitter until the 7th before the Braves made their run to tie the game. The exciting ending seemed only fitting theater as the club continued their season long 10th season celebration in Washington by having Hall of Fame slugger Frank Robinson throw out the ceremonial first pitch and retiring his name into the Ring of Honor at Nats Park. Robinson was the Nationals’ manager in their first two years after moving from Montreal.
In Sunday’s finale, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos knocked in the tying and winning run respectively to complete a huge three game sweep of the Braves by a 5-4 count. Bryce Harper did not hit a home run for the 4th consecutive game but he did continue his stellar week with a RBI double in the 1st inning. Jordan Zimmermann labored through 6 innings giving up 3 runs scattering 8 hits. Ramos ended the game with 2 hits and 2 RBIs to raise his average to a team leading .327. Rookie Sammy Solis (1-0) pitched the 8th and Drew Storen delivered a perfect 9th for his 9th save. Four games in a row and 5 of 6 on this latest homestand has the team feeling pretty good about where they are standings wise going into their first west coast trip of the season.