Aug 24, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT
You know a team has done something special when two of its most seasoned veterans – in this case Adam LaRoche and Scott Hairston, who have a combined 22 MLB season between them – say they’ve never seen anything like it.
Sure, teams have closed 10-game homestands at 9-1 before. That’s rare, but not extraordinary.
Five walk-off wins in six nights, though? A team-record 10-game winning streak? How about a finale that saw the Nats go down five runs, then explode for 12 of their own in a three-inning span?
One walk around the Nats clubhouse after Sunday’s 14-6 win over the Giants and it was clear: what just transpired at Nationals Park over the last week-plus was quite unusual.
“You can’t explain it, no,” LaRoche said. “I’ve been on some good stretches, but not to be down late in as many games as we were and find a way to come back. You just don’t see that too often.”
“It was a great homestand,” Hairston added. “I’ve never experienced anything like it and I think that it’s safe to say nobody has.”
The final game wasn’t just among the best the Nationals have played all season. Try one of the best games one 29-year-old veteran has ever been a part of.
“That was one of the best games that I have ever played. The way that we came back, that was unbelievable,” Jose Lobaton said. “When I’m catching and I see the score, I’m like ‘wow, it’s not easy to come back like that.’ And we did it.”
The Nationals, as mentioned above, found themselves down 5-0 after just three innings. Stephen Strasburg was having one of his worst starts of the 2014 season and their opponent was no chump. The San Francisco Giants entered the day gripping the final NL Wild Card spot and appeared to be in complete control.
What happened next was a 14-1 outburst over five innings. The Nats scored two in the fourth inning and 12 more in the final three. Their 14 total runs were the most they’ve score in any game this season, and the most since July 28 of 2013.
Nine different Nationals recorded RBIs on Sunday, four of them with two. Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa all homered. Eight different players had a multi-hit game. All of that happened in a stretch of 15 outs.
After looking at the box score, it’s almost hard to believe Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong began the day with three hitless frames. He was dealing early on, but the Nationals kept applying pressure with determined at-bats until they broke through.
“You look up and you’re down five runs, realistically you know it’s going to be a challenge to get back into it,” LaRoche said. “And we go out with two innings and get right back in it. Just passing the baton to the next guy and taking what they give us. Guys taking walks, sac flies, just finding a way to work it out. Finding a way to push runs across, that’s what we’ve been doing all along.”
Strasburg, who was essentially bailed out after his poor start, said he wasn’t surprised at all by the comeback, not after what he has seen this year. Sunday was the Nats’ 28th comeback win of the season.
“I think we understand there’s a lot of ballgame left, especially when it’s that early in the game,” he said. “I think the guys have done a great job over the course of the season just not giving away at-bats and being tough outs. They are really putting the pressure on the opposing pitcher and the defense. They put enough pressure on them and they cracked.”
The Nationals have now won 12 of their last 13 and hold a season-high division lead of eight games over the Atlanta Braves. That’s the biggest margin they’ve enjoyed in the NL East since Sept. 14 of 2012. The biggest lead they’ve ever had, in fact, is 8 1/2.
An important road trip awaits them, starting with the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday. With the way the Nats are playing, they will hope a change of scenery doesn’t alter what they have going.
“As far as we’re concerned, we don’t change a thing,” LaRoche said. “We’ll keep doing what we’re going regardless of who we’re playing. But it’s a big road trip, it’s coming down to the wire here. We got a chance to lengthen this gap and we’re going to keep trying to do it.”
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