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Matt Adams, Wilmer Difo making cases to start every day for Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals have received stellar production from some of their bench players.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In their walk-off, series-clinching victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday afternoon, the Washington Nationals saw clutch hitting out of some unlikely heroes.

According to FanGraphs, Trea Turner and Bryce Harper are the top two hitters on the team in WAR. While that comes as no surprise, the two players that come behind them do. Utility men Wilmer Difo and Matt Adams have been called upon as injury replacements for key hitters in the lineup, and both have responded with flair.

Adams was the only Nats hitter to scrape anything across with Jake Arrieta on the mound Sunday, sending a towering 396-foot homer off the façade of the second deck to hand Washington an early 1-0 lead. It was the fifth long ball he’s hit in the month of May and, coupled with a single later in the seventh, helped raise his season batting average to .296.

“Facing him, he’s a tough out, and he’s a great low-ball hitter,” Max Scherzer said last week.

“When he gets pitches to hit he can extend on anybody, and that’s what happened. So, he’s an important piece to our puzzle, and when he starts and he gets ABs, he can really do some damage at the plate.”

In the bottom of the ninth, Difo stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and a chance to give the Nats their first walk-off victory of the season. He did just that, hitting a ball on a rope to dead center field to win the series and extend his hitting streak to nine games. Difo has scored at least one run in seven of his past eight games and has been a key hitter in the No. 9 spot batting in front of Harper.

“Love having him around,” manager Davey Martinez said prior to Sunday’s game. “He gets guys pumped up every day. Yesterday he hits the home run, and the whole dugout is jumping up and down. I tell you, every time he hits one he thinks he’s setting a milestone, maybe for him, but he’s that guy, and when he gets on base, typically good things happen, so I love watching him play, I really do, and he brings that energy every single day.”

There are no timetables for the returns of Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy, so both Adams and Difo are going to be on the field for the time being. Once the Nats’ stars do come back, however, they’ll be relegated to pinch-hitting duties and filling in when regular starters need an off day.

Adams hasn’t hit lefties well over the course of his career and Difo struggles away from Nationals Park, so there are certainly some reservations about handing them the starting jobs. Yet, their production is hard to ignore and will be difficult to replace even with Eaton and Murphy.

For now, Adams and Difo are playing important roles for an offense that’s scored the third most runs in the National League. The Nats, winners in seven of their last eight games, certainly aren’t going to complain.

“I personally don’t have any control over the lineup itself,” Difo said via a translator. “I’ve just got to be ready when I’m asked to play. Whether it’s twice a week, three times a week, I have no control over that. Obviously, we want to the team to be healthy, and the full lineup out there, and have myself contribute any way I can. And that’s all I can control, and that’s what I want to do, is help out any way I can.”