With just nine runs in their previous six games, two of them shutout losses, Washington’s Nationals needed more than just an offensive spark on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
They got what amounted to an offensive explosion — a 14-hit attack with contributions from almost everyone, their biggest inning of the season, a team record, and a franchise first — in an 8-2 salvage win.
The Nationals have been a bit short on power as a team this season, so manager Davey Martinez tweaked the lineup a bit, moving red-hot catcher Kiebert Ruiz to the No. 2 spot, ahead of Juan Soto (No. 3), and the club played “small ball” against a Brewers’ infield that didn’t seem prepared.
The Nats scored a run off Milwaukee starter Freddy Peralta in the second when Maikel Franco singled to center and Lane Thomas — 5-for-12 with 17 total bases in the series — followed with a double to right.
The next inning, César Hernández worked his 11th walk of the season, took second on a groundout by Juan Soto, and scored on a two-out hit by Nelson Cruz to make it 2-0.
Yadiel Hernández — hitting .321/.358/.473 for the season and .330/.371/.486 in his last 30 games — started the fourth with a single to center.
Franco followed with a hit in his fifth consecutive game to put two men on for Thomas, who hammered a hanging slider into left field to bring in Hernández to make it 3-0 and put runners on second and third.
That was all for Peralta, but left-hander Brent Suter didn’t fare much better against a Nats’ lineup that was brimming with confidence by now.
Dee Strange-Gordon followed with the Nats’ fourth consecutive hit of the inning, dropping a 1-0 pitch to the first base side of the mound. The southpaw pitcher’s motion took him off to the third-base side, and Suter could not recover and field the ball in time to make a throw.
Strange-Gordon had an RBI hit to make it 4-0, and the Nats had runners at the corners with the top of the lineup coming up.
The 1st time in Washington history with back-to-back RBI bunts, per @EliasSports.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 22, 2022
So that's pretty cool. pic.twitter.com/Zbs7n8c8iJ
César Hernández’s team-leading 48th hit of the season was also a bunt, a little to the right of the previous one. This time, first baseman Rowdy Tellez fielded the ball cleanly, but Suter could not field the toss while making the run to tag first, and he was late, anyway.
Thomas raced home to make it 5-0 on the Nationals’ second consecutive RBI bunt, the first back-to-back RBI bunts in the history of the franchise according to the Nationals’ PR team, citing data from Elias Sports.
Ruiz reached base for the first time as a No. 2 hitter, hammering a 2-1 fastball into left for a double that scored César Hernández to make it 6-0 and put Strange-Gordon on third.
Soto followed with a line drive hit to center, the seventh consecutive hit of the inning, scoring both runners to make it 8-0, but the Nats weren’t done yet.
Nelson Cruz singled for his fourth hit of the series but was tagged out at second after the Nats’ eighth consecutive plate appearance with a hit.
That tied a team record set in Atlanta on Aug. 20, 2016.
Josh Bell grounded out and Yadiel Hernandez lined out in his second at-bat of the inning to end it.
However, the Nats’ six runs and eight hits were the most in any inning this season.
Scored a touchdown in the 4th but need to keep practicing our extra points.@KPMidAtlantic // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/3aSFQNVoTL— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 22, 2022