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Lineup finally breaks out during sweep

Apr 18, 2011, 1:45 AM EST

US Presswire photo
Danny Espinosa is congratulated after homering in Game 1.

The hits would come, the Nationals kept insisting, even as batting averages tumbled below the Mendoza line and the team’s collective slugging percentage threatened to fall below .300. As long as they kept getting quality performances from their pitching staff, everyone was confident the bats would do their part.

And then on Sunday, the Nationals saw everything come together in a perfect little package. They got two more quality performances from their pitching staff. And they finally got the offensive explosion everyone was waiting for.

The end result: A thoroughly satisfying doubleheader sweep of the Brewers (by scores of 8-4 and 5-1) that left the Nationals with a winning record and spirits soaring.

“Fifteen games is nothing. We’ve got a long way to go, and a lot can happen,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “But if we keep playing like this, it might be a good situation.”

As long as the Nationals’ rotation continues to pitch like this, and as long as they get the occasional clutch hit, they’re certainly going to be in position to win every time they take the field. They proved that twice on Sunday in a rare, traditional doubleheader that saw some unlikely offensive heroes emerge.
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  1. SonnyG10 - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:04 AM

    My first true double-header since my dad took me to one in old Griffith stadium many years ago. Thank you Learner family for that opportunity.It was a thrill to watch the Nats to take both games in great fashion. I just marvel at how silky smooth Adam LaRoache is at first base. He is something else. Its as much fun for me to watch his picks as it was to see Adam Dunn hit home runs.

  2. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pesstimistic_For_Me - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:06 AM

    First doubleheader sweep in Washington since Teddy Ballgame's first year managing in D.C, 1969. I'm having Eddie Brinkman flashbacks right now. Take a bow, Riggs. Take a bow, Espi. Now, let's sweep those Cards…

  3. FS - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:29 AM

    Just wondering. What are the chances that Nationals look to shop Marquis now? We know he is known to be a first-half pitcher. We also have couple of options in Maya and Detwiler if Jason is traded. It is very much possible that Marquis will be traded this season. So why not trade him when his value is highest?MarkZ, is it possible you can provide a weekly summary of Nationals minor league players? I mean, especially those players that are closer to making it to big leagues, such as Detwiler, Marrero, etc.

  4. bdrube - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:38 AM

    You don't shop players in APRIL, or else you might as well just hang out a sign that says "see you next year" and tell all the fans to go home. That is the epitome of a defeatist attitude. Jason will be here until the trading deadline, just like Capps was last year. Unless, of course, the Nats actually find themselves in contention–at which point he might possibly NOT be traded. You don't give up on any season until you are obviously out of contention. I live for the day when fans are talking about who we are going to ADD rather than who are are going to SUBTRACT.

  5. SonnyG10 - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:44 AM

    bdrube said… "I live for the day when fans are talking about who we are going to ADD rather than who are are going to SUBTRACT."I like your goal!

  6. FS - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:49 AM

    Who says anything about giving up? I was talking about simply replacing him with Detwiler or Maya (if either show the promise of doing as well as Marquis or better). But I get what you are trying to say. Also the sample size is too small.

  7. Sunderland - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:55 AM

    Also FS, to get the best deal, you need highly highly motivated buyers. And in April, no one is highly motivated. They get motivated in July, when their playoff and pennant chances are much clearer.

  8. sjm308 - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:59 AM

    bdrube:I like your attitude and was saying pretty much the same thing to my son at the game today. I think we will look to trade Marquis later in the season but IF we are still in the wildcard hunt there is no way we let a veteran like that go. I also live for that day when we are planning around who to add to make that final push to the playoffs. By the way, the Brewers manager did a lot of stuff that was different this week-end but I don't understand why he would not play his speedy outfielder who is hitting .456 in at least one game. Any thoughts on that Mark?

  9. Sunderland - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:15 AM

    sjm, wondered the same thing myself. The AP write up of today's DH mentioned that Nyjer is nursing a thigh bruise.

  10. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:22 AM

    @sjm308: Nyjer was nursing a contusion on his leg that apparently affected his ability to run. Hence, his one pinch-hitting appearance…and the chance for the home crowd to evaluate his performance here.

  11. sjm308 - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:31 AM

    thank you gentlemen – he did get booed pretty well in his one pinch hitting appearance.I realize Ankiel is not the permanent answer in CF for years to come but has everyone here had a chance to watch him throw!!! Its such a huge difference to watch the ball come in on a line, whether to 2nd, 3rd or even home instead of bouncing to the cutoff man on several hops. I also seem to think he takes a decent line to the ball no matter where it is hit. Of course everything looks good to me after this weekend.

  12. Joe Seamhead - Apr 18, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    What a fun, rewarding day yesterday was. We arrived early, traded Saturday's tickets for the DH and stayed through both games. I'm a little horse from so much cheering! sjm308, I agree that Ankiel has been fun to watch in CF. He gets good reads and wow, what a rifle! Also, I get people missing Dunn, but can we be real about Adam LeRoache? I honestly think that his glove has made a direct difference in a couple of wins.He has had everybody's back in the infield at least once already this year, in addition to playing Gold Glove caliber on balls hit directly his way. Hey, team, we've got the longest winning streak in the NL right now. Let's keep it up against the Cards!

  13. dale - Apr 18, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Loved the wins. I was thinking about the contributions of LaRoche at first base as well. I remember every time Dunn fielded a short hop throw from his mates that I cringed inside, knowing the percentages were against it turning out well. LaRoche's fielding on batted balls is so smooth that I have come to expect him to make every play in his direction.Seeing some of the struggling hitters getting their bats squared up on pitches is a very good sign. I hope it is the start of a season long trend.

  14. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 18, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    Is it my imagination? Seems like we've obtained several new posters since the Orioles have reverted to their true selves.And the Showalter crowd has quietly disappeared recently, too.

  15. Anonymous - Apr 18, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    "Nyjer was nursing a contusion on his leg that apparently affected his ability to run."Shame he's never gotten a contusion on his lip that affects his ability to run his mouth.

  16. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 18, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    And why is the MLB.Com website calling the Wednesday probable pitcher for the Nats as "TBD" when it's Jordan Zimmermann's scheduled start?

  17. masnstinks - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    Glad we have an off- day today so that we can bask in the glow of a sweep and a winning record. Usually that next game comes quickly and kills my buzz.

  18. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Like everyone else, I'm feeling a little euphoric over the past week ends efforts but, realistically, we all need to temper this with the same resolve that the team needs to express.15 games down and 147 more to go. Contest each out, be agressive, and barrel up the ball on offense. Maintain a simple but effective approach to winning baseball.

  19. natsfan1a - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    A little late on this but Bang! Zoom! er, I mean

  20. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    And C'mon FS….. We finally develope some depth in our minor league system to provide able bodied replacements (see Balester call up) and you're wanting to trade it away already???Let's hold off on any trade talks this early.

  21. Richard - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    Enjoyed the comments on LaRouche. I like his offense and defense, too. His homer in yesterday's 2nd game was a nice shot. His defense is, yes, smooth — like his swing. Re the request that Mark provide a weekly summary of Nats minor league players, there are Web sites that do this now. There's the MiLB site, which gives scores, stats, etc., on all the minor leagues, and each of the Nats affiliates has a Web site; and "Nationals Prospects" Web site gives an almost daily summary plus spreadsheets with data. MarkZ has gotta delegate the work!

  22. sjm308 - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    Totally recommend the Nationals Prospects and like this site, the people who respond are usually spot on as well.NatsJack is correct of course. We are not even 1/10th into the season but isn't it fun. Were we really 20-15 last year? Have to believe this team won't fall so far.I do miss the small fireworks show after a home run and have to admit, I don't think I have heard a homerun call on the radio but without the fireworks do the guys still go "bang – zoom!"?On a totally different track, tried out the new Das Bullpen yesterday before the first game. Not crowded, had a nice brown ale from Nova Scotia, no cans or bottles that I could see (all drafts). Same decent dogs and sausages as BP#1 at a lower cost then the stadium. No live music or that bag tossing thing the young people play but lots of picnic benches. My 30 year old likes the original for the live music but this one for the beer and I tend to agree. I wonder if we will ever have a scene like the Verizon Center. That would be fun but I guess the economy is not cooperating.Go Nats!

  23. Big Cat - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    Yes NatsJack, not a whole lot of chatter from the Oriole people. Bottom line is that the O's stink and the Nats might sneak in the wildcard. Did I say that? Did I say playoffs? P-P-P-Playoffs?!! Are you kiddin me!!!

  24. Anonymous - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Storen has been absolutely filthy lately!

  25. Big Cat - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    Wonder how Morgan likes pickin splinters out of his fanny. You watch, it won't be long before he starts running his mouth about playing time. Gosh, I am glad he is gone

  26. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Gotta luv'ya Big Cat but please read my 8:12 post and take a deep breath.

  27. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    And as for Morgan, I watched 2 games last week where the Brew Crew had him playing right field. RIGHT FIELD!And the more I thought about it, the more I realized his days are numbered in Milawuakee now that they've seen his defensive inabilities. He certainly can't replace Braun in left and Gomez is 3 times the center fielder plus he has an arm. They realize that defensively, he is a major liability.

  28. bzlrbi - Apr 18, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    Statistical oddity: in game 1, all 18 starters had a hit. I wonder when was the last time this happened in an NL game?

  29. fpcsteve - Apr 18, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    I hate to bring up a sensitive subject for some folks but, here we go. I liked the contributions the vets made in both games yesterday. Rodriguez, Ankiel, Cora, Hairston… Good solid baseball from those guys. I like 'em and like what they bring to the team. We're at a point now where everybody (young and old) seems to be doing what they were signed to do. Good stuff. Just a thought…

  30. Sunderland - Apr 18, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    Nyjer also is going to get even less playing time when 2008 and 2010 All-Star RF Corey Hart returns from the DL in about a week.And agreeing with others about Ankiel and LaRoche. Sunday's DH showed why were a better team with these two than with Nyjer and Dunn. If Nyjer were in center, the Brewers would have run on him and scored more runs, but they played it safe with Ankiel out there. And LaRoche seems to save a baserunner or two every game.

  31. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 18, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    Another thing that needs to be pointed out is how "routine" LaRoche makes fielding throws to first look. There was one throw in the second game from Hairston that he needed to stretch to the rf side of the bag (REALLY stretch) and he made it look routine. Adam Dunn even trying to field that ball on his glove side would have given it the old "hand wave" or at least come off the bag.This happens at least twice every game where LaRoche saves what would have been a sure error for the fielder throwing the ball.

  32. Anonymous - Apr 18, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    I've been saying 79+ wins before the season, and I'm not swaying from this, but if the starting rotation holds up most of the year, the Nats might be knocking on a door this city hasn't seen before. Ya ba da ba doo…UNTERP

  33. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 18, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    And it's 2 hours later and MLB.Com is still listing Jordan Zimmermann's supposed start Wednesday as "TBD". Anybody know about this?

  34. Sunderland - Apr 18, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    Another early season stat to ponder.Teams to run on: Philly, caught only 1 of 13 SB attempts. Mets 3 of 20 Houston 3 of 18 Dodgers 3 of 16. Teams not to run on: Milwakee caught 6 of 13 Atlanta caught 6 of 14 Washington caught 3 of 7, fewest SB attempts against any NL team. Teams are afraid to run against us.

  35. Anonymous - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    NatsJack, quit being so obsessive. Thursday's starter is also listed as TBD. So is Friday's. Why? Because the website doesn't list the starters until someone in the FO tells them, and that someone just hasn't told them yet. Maybe that someone was on the flight to St. Louis last night and slept in this morning. Maybe you should have slept in this morning too.

  36. FS - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    Richard, thanks for the link. Appreciate it.And I get the point of keeping Marquis around longer. thank you for various opinions. made sense.@ bzlrbi, that is true. Not sure if it is that rare though.And like Natsjack said, we should not get too excited. We still have more than 140 games to be played. I am happy to see them notch wins against Brewers (especially after all Zack and Morgan drama).

  37. Water23 - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    What are you all talking about? FS is right on! We should trade Marquis, now, when his value is at its peak. If you look around, clearly some teams are already desperate. The Cardinals are on the outside looking in at the WC spot and in desperate need of SP. With Pujols impending FA departure, they will be looking to move him for value. Marquis, Milone, Rick Ankiel and PTBNL (Brian Broderick) will get the deal done!Come on Rizzo, with CMW, Maya and Detweiler in the wings be brave make the DEAL!Anybody want a good deal on a bridge?

  38. Jeeves - Apr 18, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    Interesting to note that before yesterday's games, six of the starters had a BA below 200, and the other two were .212 and .250 respectively. And the team still has the fifth best record in the NL.I've thought all along the team in the field and the bullpen could play with any team in the NL. (potentially at least) It was the starters I wasn't so sure about–although I figured if they pitched like they had during their good years, we might be in for a pleasant surprise. Consider me pleasantly surprised, but not at all shocked. Hopefully, they can keep it up because sooner than later the offense is going to kick in big time.

  39. natsfan1a - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    Sure, don't get too excited. OTOH, they're managing to win without Zimm in the lineup and have kept their heads above water in what was predicted to be a tough early-season stretch. Plus, if you can't celebrate after sweeping a series, when can you? So it's okay to have a *little* joy in NatsTown today, IMHO.In other news, I think Mark's a gamer for starting the entire double-header and doing the game threads and story to boot. Atta boy, Zuck! 😉

  40. Scooter - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Well, that was a very nice weekend. I'm sorry my game was washed out, I'm glad some of y'all got a doubleheader, and I'll take the wins.On another note, I'd like to thank … um, various posters … for "behaving" this weekend, and not letting things devolve into a discussion of a certain former National. Seriously, thanks, guys.

  41. Anonymous8 - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    fpcsteve said… I hate to bring up a sensitive subject for some folks but, here we go. I liked the contributions the vets made in both games yesterday. Rodriguez, Ankiel, Cora, Hairston… Good solid baseball from those guys. I like 'em and like what they bring to the team. We're at a point now where everybody (young and old) seems to be doing what they were signed to do. Good stuff. Just a thought… April 18, 2011 9:07 AM You list IRod, Ankiel, Cora and Hairston making contributions.I don't think anyone has questioned Ankiel as an overall upgrade over Nyjer just the hole left in leadoff and Pudge is a very capable backup and a big upgrade over Nieves.As far as Hairston and Cora go, it is VOR, value over replacement. Is Alberto Gonzalez better than either? Were they the best choices as backup?You didn't mention Stares. I listened to Riggleman discussing his at-bat and the next batter Espinosa. I believe Riggles said something like Stares hit it hard on the barrel. Gee, he was out 4-2 on that forceout at home. Then Riggles says and Espinosa comes up and we really needed a ball in the air to score a run. Riggles, Stares isn't getting under any balls. Hitting the ball on the barrell that stayed in the infield should have been a double play ball but the Brewers for some reason went to take away the run at home and Espinosa did the job Stares was brought here to do.Again, at some point even Stares will contribute but it goes back to VOR as all players. As many have said, LaRoche seems to be an all around upgrade at 1st base and Ankiel is an all around upgrade at CF and Werth eventually will be an upgrade so that is 3 positions where the Nats upgraded.The Nats finished April 2010 at 13-10 and I was dreaming of 3rd place as an achievable goal then so I am not going to get too giddy about 8-7 at April 18th however I see a team that has the one key ingredient all good teams have which is "starting pitching". I am still concerned about the bench and await the return of Zim.The one person who deserves a lot of credit is Riggleman. He totally outcoached his counterpart Roenicke who looked lost over there in the visitors dugout.

  42. sm13 - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    What a great day at the ballpark! Don't overlook Tyler's good work in game 1 after Gaudin made things much too interesting by not throwing strikes.

  43. Water23 - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    Great day, great weekend! April is a nice time to enjoy being a Nats fan. With Zim coming back in a few weeks and the pitching holding up here's hoping we outperform last year and are over .500 sometime in June!

  44. fpcsteve - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    Anonymous8, I agree with giving Riggleman credit. It seems to me that he is doing a solid job. The thing I see the Nats doing is producing results that comprise at least the sum of their parts. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on the bench. I hope they keep doing what they did yesterday. If not (say, June or July), then make the necessary adjustments.

  45. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    fpcsteve… Same with me on the bench. I'm OK with the bench for now but I firmly believe this team will be better (and younger) by this seasons end.

  46. Anonymous - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    Who is Stares?

  47. dj in Fl. - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    If you were keeping up with the guys in the minors you would realize that we would be in the same position we were in last year with men on base every inning. Maya has an era over 6, and Detwiller while posting an era under 2, has me a bit concerned with allowing a base runner per inning. I am sure Detwiller will be ready soon, but I am not so sure of Maya. How about we just keep winning and be happy with the chemistry we seem to have.

  48. Knoxville Nat - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    I have just one question in regards to the second game that I'm hoping someone on this board can answer for me. What was the deal with the balk/non-balk call by the umps? Has anyone ever seen a call like this get reversed before? I don't recall Carp or FP ever really giving us an explanation on what happened.

  49. Anonymous - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:50 PM

    If anybody still cares, Dunn is hitting .182 with 2 home runs.

  50. DFL - Apr 18, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    Pitching is why the Nats are 8-7. In yesterday's double-header sweep, every pitcher but Gaudin pitched well. And Gaudin will be gone by next year, if not sooner.

  51. Anonymous - Apr 18, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    Different Anonymous says: Who? I don't see a Dunn on any of the Nats rosters, including the minors? Are you talking about the Marlins reliever? Surprising he has that many ABs out of the bullpen.

  52. Michael - Apr 18, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Love how Nyjer talked about how the Nats never went on a 3 game winning streak. The nats just won 3 against your team Nyjer.

  53. Mark'd - Apr 18, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    Michael, I am on vacation this week and late to the gloating and removing that thick layer of egg from Nyjers face.Also notice how the Baltimore trolls have disappeared. Incredible to go from 6-1 to 6-8.

  54. sm13 - Apr 18, 2011 at 4:57 PM

    I believe the issue on the balk was whether the pitcher stepped off the rubber before making his move towards the base. From the stands you could see the pitcher motion to his foot as soon as the balk was called by the 2nd base ump. It seemed as though the 1st base ump had a better angle to see if there was daylight between foot and rubber.I was really surprised that Riggs wasn't tossed – it looked like he was really trying to get ejected.

  55. natsfan1a - Apr 18, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    Speaking of things chirpy (which Bos was in his a.m. chat, btw), it occurs to me that if we were in the AL East, they'd be looking up at us right now. (Sorry, couldn't help myself. We now return you to your regularly scheduled NATS program.)

  56. Steve M. - Apr 18, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    Mark'd said… Michael, I am on vacation this week and late to the gloating and removing that thick layer of egg from Nyjers face.Also notice how the Baltimore trolls have disappeared. Incredible to go from 6-1 to 6-8.April 18, 2011 12:39 PM Also no mention of how Zack Greinke feels about his new team right now. I am sure he was watching his new boss Roenicke and wondering W-T-F is this guy doing?The Nats still have to face the Brewers a few more times in Milwaukee so I won't be proclaiming the Nats are better but the way Fielder and Braun were limited to almost no damage was a great job by McCatty and his staff.It was a total team effort in these wins and also agree that Riggleman, McCatty, Eckstein and Porter did a fantastic job, but as we know, it is always a "what have you done for me lately" so this team has to make this an all the time performance so Rizzo can selectively improve the weak links in the chain.On Anon8's comments, I think you have said it correctly and better than how I have been analyzing it. Hairston, Cora, and Stairs need to be judged more on WAR or VOR or whatever it is to say they are better or worse than what you could have had.Bernadina vs. StairsAGonzalez vs. CoraEtc.

  57. JaneB - Apr 18, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    Thanks for the SFX, natsfan1a! I actually cheered FOR Nyjer when he came out, and so did many people around me. Glad I saw him be terrific for us, glad he is traded, and glad still to see him. SO some of the "jeering" fans were doing the opposite.I turned to my husband several times yesterday and said, "Okay: Adam Dunn does not make that play." LaRoche is better defensively. We are at first base, down pretty low, and that Loe move sure looked to US like a balk. Incredible that it got taken back. I was sure Riggleman would get yanked. Keep in mind this was after a play that was clearly out at first base — even the instant replay showed that — and the ump called it safe. And the game was on the cusp of going sour just then, so Riggleman getting red in the face of that particular blue meanie was exactly the right play for the moment. You could just feel the game go from on the fence to in the bag, right then.And for people who believe fan focus and intention don't matter, I want to point out that Gaudin got in trouble when the crowd was so sure we would win that they invested themselves in that stupid wave thing. Focus, people.

  58. Joe Seamhead - Apr 18, 2011 at 9:31 PM

    Thanks, Jane for your take on the balk, and for the relay from Morse to Espinosa to LaRoache at first play.I was up in 311,above3B, but it sure looked like the throw/tag beat the runner. This is the first that I've seen on that play on the blogs.Michael Morse made a great throw to second on the play and has gotten no mention for it. Keep it going, You Nationals!

  59. natsfan1a - Apr 18, 2011 at 9:33 PM

    You're welcome on the sound effects, JaneB.Since I couldn't be there, thanks for having my back on cheering Morgan and discouraging the wave. It's lame, imho, but at least people could do it when the *opposing* pitcher is on the bump. Focus, people. Like the lady said. :-)





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