Wednesday night’s 14-4 blowout win over the Atlanta Braves gave Washington’s Nationals a sweep of the two-game set in SunTrust Park and wins in five of their last six games heading into this weekend’s three-game set with the Cincinnati Reds in Great American Ball Park.
A 5-4 win on Tuesday and the laugher in the second game gave manager Davey Martinez a glimpse of what the roster can do when the expected everyday regulars (or at least most of them) are healthy and producing.
“You know, we had guys injured, we had guys come back,” Martinez said. “We had guys that played that needed just to play games, and now things are starting to click a little bit and they’re playing them. Our lineup’s got some length now and we’re starting to extend some innings which is kind of nice.”
Both the first, second, and fifth innings on Wednesday were extended innings, with good at bats, the Nationals taking their walks, (from a struggling Kevin Gausman, who didn’t make it out of the second, and reliever Dan Winkler, who gave up a triple, walked two batters, and surrendered an RBI double, and a two-run home run in the fifth), and stringing together hits.
They were up 8-0 after two, and a run in the fourth and five more in the fifth made it 14-0 before the Braves had even recorded a hit off returning starter Aníbal Sánchez, who came off the Injured List with his best out of the season to this point.
“We stayed up the middle,” Martinez said when asked what was behind the offensive output.
“And we talk a lot about just using the whole field, and the boys had great at bats today, all day, we got the ball up, which we wanted to do, and they stayed up the middle of the field.”
It was just the fifth blowout (5+ run win) this season for the Nationals, and a rare opportunity to work with an early lead, rest most of the bullpen, and avoid the stress of a late-inning loss or close win. But more important than anything else, it was a win. Plain and simple.
“You know what, a win is a win is a win, we always talk about that,” Martinez said. “No matter how you get it. I always tell the boys, ‘Hey, one more than the other guys always works.’ But tonight they came out swinging the bats, we jumped out early, we tacked on runs, so it was nice. It was nice to sit back and watch the boys play and have some fun.”
They’ve still lost 16 of 28 games this month, they’re eight games under .500, and 9.5 games out in the NL East, but they won three straight for the first time this season and the back-to-back series wins are their first since April 4-10 when they took 2 of 3 from both Philadelphia and New York.
Though the second-year skipper doesn’t like to address the team as a whole, in a big, rah-rah speech or whatever, he did say that he spoke to the team as a group after the sweep of the Braves, because they always get every member of the team together after sweeping a series. His message?
“We’ve been playing well. I just talked to all the boys and told them, ‘You guys got to feel it right now. It feels pretty good. So have a great day off, and let’s get back at it Friday.’”