Washington’s Nationals scored 24 unanswered runs after falling behind 6-0 in the second game of three with the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park, before Trevor Rosenthal gave up a run in the ninth inning of the 15-1 win in the series finale.
With a comeback win in Tuesday night’s game, and a blowout win on Wednesday, skipper Davey Martinez’s squad wrapped up a 4-2 road trip through Flushing, Queens, NY and the City of Brotherly Love at 6-5 overall after a disappointing season-opening homestand.
“I said it all along,” Martinez told reporters after Wednesday’s game, “we’re playing well. Our bullpen is starting to pitch the way they’re capable of pitching, and we’re swinging the bats. Like I said yesterday, I’m proud of the guys. They prepare every day and they play every day ... every out.
“So we have a day off tomorrow and we’re going to enjoy our day off and come back Friday and do it again.”
Stephen Strasburg gave up six runs in just four innings in the second game of three in CBP, after the Nationals had dropped the series opener, but relievers Joe Ross, Matt Grace, Kyle Barraclough, and Sean Doolittle held Philly there as the Nationals rallied from a 6-1 deficit to take that game, 10-6, and Jeremy Hellickson (6.0 scoreless), Tony Sipp, and Wander Suero combined for eight scoreless before Rosenthal gave up a run in the ninth in the third game of three.
Asked about the pitching they got in the last two games, Martinez said, “It was awesome.”
“We pounded the strike zone,” the manager continued, “... and we limited the walks, and that’s key, especially with these guys, they can swing the bats and at any given time one of those guys could hit a home run, and that’s what we need to do. We need to pound the strike zone and make our pitches.”
Having played 11-straight games against their NL East rivals, six against the Mets, five with the Phillies, the Nationals return home for three with the Pittsburgh Pirates (6-4) and three with San Francisco’s Giants (4-9).
Back-to-back series with two of the teams that they’ll have to fight for the division title this season did, however, give the Nats’ second-year skipper a good idea of what it will take to come out on top in the East.
“Those two teams we played are really good, and they’re going to be good all year, I mean, we’re going to go head to head with them, so to come out of the first couple weeks after a bit of a rough start and be 6-5 right now — of course we’d like to be 8-3, but we’ve got a long way to go, so we’re playing really good and we’re going to go home and continue to play. You know we’ve got a couple of teams coming in that are pretty good, so like I said, take the day off, relax, rest, and come back Friday ready to go.”
“We haven’t played really well our first 10 games,” GM Mike Rizzo said in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies before the finale with the Phillies.
“We’ve faced some extremely good pitching as we are going to be the entire season in the National League East, and I think we’re getting our sea legs right now and starting to play the game a little bit better as you’ve seen throughout the course of this really early season.”
“This National League East is no joke,” Rizzo said at another point. “This thing is going to be a meat grinder the whole way, where every game counts, every inning counts, every 90 feet count. We’re going to have to scrimp and battle for each advantage you have, you have to play clean games, only allow 27 outs and really be aggressive on the basepaths. This is a scrappy bunch of guys, I tell you. We talked about how we were going to score runs this season without [Bryce Harper], and I said that I think we’d score plenty of runs, enough runs, but I thought we were going to score them differently, and I think you’ve seen that with Victor Robles playing extremely well at the bottom of the lineup, the top of the lineup doing well, especially with Trea [Turner] out, one of our best offensive players. We’re just grinding away.”
The grind continues with the first of three against the Pirates in Nationals Park tonight at 7:05 PM EDT.