Joe Ross did his thing, generating almost endless groundouts, to limit the visiting St. Louis Cardinals to one run over seven innings to help the Washington Nationals take the first of the four-game series with the Cards 2-1 on a warm Thursday evening in the nation's capital.
Ross was backed by a pair of solo homers by Bryce Harper (remember him?) and Danny Espinosa.
The Nats starter gave up just six hits and one walk in seven innings, striking out just four. But his heavy sinker and nasty slider prompted the Cards to beat the ball into the ground, where the Nats fielders (usually) had little trouble picking it up. The Nationals' defense turned three double plays on the evening to help Ross out when he did allow baserunners.
Anthony Rendon picked up a pair of hits to raise his batting average to .255 for the season. Over his last 15 games, the Nats' third baseman is hitting .353/.468/.529, so he seems to be heating up as the weather is starting to get nicer.
Harper game into the game with just two homers in the month of May after hitting nine in April, hitting .195/.444/354 in his last 30 games -- almost enough to start a panic. But he got hold of a hanging 80-mph knuckle curve from Cards' starter Mike Leake and hammered it off the facade of the upper deck in right for his 12th homer of the season.
Espinosa needed his big bang too. He came in hitting .208/.289/.347 in his last 30 games, and there's plenty of noise that when Trea Turner (.306/.372/.447, 3 HR, 15/15 SB in 192 PAs for AAA Syracuse) passes the imaginary "Super 2 deadline" in the next week or so he could be on his way to D.C. That may still happen, but at least Espinosa has something to hang his hat on for the time being.
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