Jul 9, 2014, 9:58 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Playing their first game in an AL park with a healthy lineup, the Nationals had an opportunity to field a lineup built both with offense and defense in mind for a change. And both aspects of Matt Williams’ starting nine played roles in this convincing victory at Camden Yards.
A lineup that included Ryan Zimmerman as designated hitter thumped Orioles starter Bud Norris and reliever Brad Brach for six runs in seven innings, getting home runs from Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth. And thanks to some elite glovework from Anthony Rendon at third base and Danny Espinosa at second base, the Nationals were able to overcome something of an off-night by Doug Fister and still reward the right-hander with a quality start.
Put those two facets of the game together, and the Nationals looked very much like a first-place club tonight, beating a good Baltimore team and also opening up a 1-game lead on the Braves, who dropped their fourth straight.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: We’ve seen the healthy Nationals lineup produce runs over the last week-and-a-half. Tonight we saw that lineup produce runs in a specific manner: via the longball. Ramos, Desmond and Werth all homered off Orioles pitching, taking advantage of the cozy dimensions and warm air here at Camden Yards. This is what the Nats have been waiting to see. They know everyone in this lineup is capable of putting the ball over the fence, but they haven’t quite seen it happen as much as they’d like. This was the Nationals’ first 3-homer game since May 31.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This was by no means Fister at his best. That much was obvious during a 31-pitch first inning in which the guy who walked six total batters in his first 11 starts put two of the first four batters he faced on with free passes. Dan Iassogna’s meandering strike zone didn’t help, but neither did Fister’s inability to keep the ball down. And yet, the right-hander still managed to go seven innings while allowing only two runs. It’s testament to Fister’s composure on the mound and ability to adjust in-game. And, quite frankly, and it’s also testament to some stellar defense behind him tonight. That’s one reason why Williams wanted Espinosa at second base, though, recognizing defense would be a priority with Fister on the mound.
KEY STAT: Though he’s only 4-for-28 at the plate, the Nationals are now 6-2 since Bryce Harper returned from the DL.
UP NEXT: The Battle of the Beltways wraps up with what will prove to be the rubber game of this abbreviated series at 7:05 p.m. Thursday. It’s a pair of lefties on the mound: the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez and the Orioles’ Wei-Yin Chen.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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