Aug 29, 2013, 9:32 PM EDT
Game in a nutshell: The Nationals have lacked a killer instinct much of this season, but when presented with the opportunity to deliver a knockout blow to the woeful Marlins tonight, they did just that. Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond all clubbed multi-run homers to ignite this suddenly resurgent lineup. Ryan Zimmerman reached base four times to help set the table for the guys behind him. Gio Gonzalez battled back from an early bout of wildness to toss seven scoreless innings and not even give the Marlins a whiff of a comeback. And the Nationals finished off a three-game sweep of Miami. They’ve won eight of their last nine and 14 of their last 19 and are three games over .500 for the first time since July 10. They now trail the Reds in the Wild Card race by 6 1/2 games.
Hitting highlight: It took them a couple of innings to get going, but once they did, the Nationals were unstoppable at the plate. Especially the heart of the order. Zimmerman, Harper, Werth and Desmond went a combined 10-for-14 with two walks, three homers and eight RBI. That’s the kind of big-time performance this team has needed all season from its best offensive players. It may be coming later than hoped, but at last the Nationals are showing signs of being a team that can win games not only via dominant pitching but also via offensive fireworks.
Pitching highlight: The way this game began, you couldn’t blame the Nationals for worrying Gonzalez was in for a rough one. The left-hander allowed two singles and three walks in the first two innings, and after four innings, his pitch count stood at 75. Props to Gonzalez, though, because he righted his ship swiftly and effectively, retiring 16 of the last 17 batters he faced. He struck out eight, didn’t issue another walk after the second inning and departed after seven scoreless innings to a standing ovation, having given the Nationals exactly what they needed one night after the bullpen was burned up.
Key stat: If he gets five plate appearances on Friday, Werth will finally qualify for the league leaderboard. He’ll rank in the NL’s top five in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
Up next: The decimated Mets (now missing Matt Harvey, David Wright, Marlon Byrd and John Buck) come to town for the weekend. Jordan Zimmermann faces Dillon Gee in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. series opener.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
OCT. 7: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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