Nationals Back Above .500 with Five Wins


(June 9) Washington Claims Doubleheader Against Minnesota
If the Washington Nationals truly wanted to turn their season around, their doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins was crucial for starting the process. They accomplished that feat by winning the first game, 7-0, as starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann shell-shocked the overmatched Twins lineup for his ninth win of the season. Second baseman Anthony Rendon did his part with two hits and three RBIs. Shortstop Ian Desmond collected three hits and two RBIs to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games, while the Nationals were an uncharacteristic 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

In the evening game, the Nats came back from three runs down for the first time this season, winning 5-4. Desmond’s double in the seventh scored first baseman Adam LaRoche and proved to be the margin of victory, as closer Rafael Soriano notched his 16th save of the season.

(June 11-13) Nats Get Two W’s Against Rockies
The Nats lost the opener of their series in Colorado, 8-3, as starting pitcher Dan Haren was outstanding in the first four innings but imploded in the fifth, when he allowed six of his eight total hits and five runs. Haren lost for the fifth time in the past six outings.

In the second game, starting pitcher Ross Ohlendorf returned to the big leagues and delivered quite a performance, pitching six strong innings in his Washington debut as the Nationals won, 5-1. Desmond backed him with two hits and three RBIs in what was only the Nationals’ third win in their past 12 road games.

The third game saw many weird twists and turns but, luckily for Nats Nation, those twists favored Washington. Two walks in the seventh inning keyed a rally as Desmond scored, and Ryan Zimmerman and Desmond again had key run-scoring hits in the eighth to lead the team to a 5-3 series winning victory. Ross Detwiler pitched five innings in his first start in more than a month, and though Soriano surrendered a run in the ninth, he successfully converted his 17th save of the season.

(June 14-15) Nats Split Two Games with Indians
A 2-1 loss to open the series with Cleveland was reminiscent of many of Washington’s defeats this season: too few clutch at-bats and failing to make key plays when it matters. Starting pitcher Gio Gonzales pitched well enough to win, allowing just one run in seven innings. But the Indians won the game on a close play at the plate in the ninth inning, when a solid scoop and throw by Adam LaRoche almost nailed Cleveland outfielder Drew Stubbs at the plate.

The second game of the series may have been the coming out party for Nats’ phenom infielder Anthony Rendon, who hit the game-winning homerun in the top of the ninth inning. Rendon’s blast came after a foul ball earlier in the at-bat fell in between Indians players Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis. The Nationals salvaged the 7-6 win after blowing a 5-0 lead built on homeruns by Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond. Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann uncharacteristically couldn’t hold the lead, giving up six runs in six innings.

Analysis:
Sometimes a small change in the lineup can ignite a team, and sometimes it can decimate them. Right now, it seems that after only one short week, the Nationals (34-33) are showing signs of life again. Anthony Rendon, the Nats’ 2011 first round draft pick, has returned to the majors and this time he may be here to stay, especially after his exploits on in Cleveland. Drew Storen looks like he has finally put his mental demons to rest and Ian Desmond has taken a leadership role with his stellar play offensively and more importantly, defensively—he has gone 50 games in a row without an error.

Player of the Week:
Desmond boasted a .500 batting average with 12 hits, one homerun, nine RBI’s and four runs scored during the week.

Next-up:
Washington will take a three-game trip to Philadelphia to face the Phillies on June 17-19, and will return home for a four-game set against the Colorado Rockies on June 20-23.

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Nationals Back Above .500 with Five Wins

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