Postgame analysis of the Nats' 10-9 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ballpark.
How it happened: After dropping the first two games of the weekend in Cincinnati with only five runs combined in those contests, the Nationals' offense then opened Sunday's game against the Reds with three hitless innings. The Nats appeared well on their way to a sweep at the hand of one of baseball's worst teams.
Their luck, though, was bound to change and once their offense finally woke up against the Reds, Cincinnati's hapless pitching staff was no match for a sleeping giant now risen.
The Nationals scored 10 runs in a three-inning span - from the fourth through the sixth - to avoid the sweep and earn their 34th victory of the season. It was an offensive explosion that provided just enough to protect them from a late rally by the Reds in their 10-9 win.
Daniel Murphy clubbed his 10th homer of the season, Wilson Ramos hit his eighth, Bryce Harper had three hits and Ben Revere had two. The Nationals rallied from a 5-0 deficit and let their starter Tanner Roark off the hook after his shortest outing of the season.
The Nationals scored 10 unanswered runs before Felipe Rivero allowed a three-run homer to Jay Bruce in the seventh. That made it 10-8, and the Reds got even closer with another run on an RBI double by Brandon Phillips in the bottom of the ninth. Jonathan Papelbon earned his 15th save in 17 chances this season, but it was yet another eventful outing for the Nats closer, who recorded the final out on a long flyball to the warning track by Ivan De Jesus with the bases loaded.
What it means: The Nats now sit 34-23 on the season, good enough for first place in the NL East. They go to Chicago next for the final three games of their 11-day road trip. They will not see Chris Sale or Jose Quintana, Chicago's two best pitchers, in the series.
Roark bounced early: It was a short day for Tanner Roark who made it just three innings mainly because of the runs he allowed, but partly because his spot in the lineup came up at an opportune time for Dusty Baker to make a change. The Nats had already scored three runs in the fourth inning to make it 5-3 with two outs before Clint Robinson doubled and Danny Espinosa was intentionally walked. Sensing a chance to get even closer, Baker called on Stephen Drew to pinch-hit for Roark, and it worked out. Drew singled to center field to score a run, cut the Reds' lead to one and extend the inning.
That left Roark with a final line of just three innings pitched with five earned runs allowed on seven hits and a walk. It was Roark's shortest outing of the season, but Baker may have left him in longer if it weren't for the circumstances on offense. The five earned runs allowed by Roark were more than he'd given up in his previous three starts combined. His season ERA went from 2.70 to 3.21 in this start.
Murphy homers again: The Nats' five-run fourth inning began with a single by Harper, the Nats' first hit of the afternoon against Reds starter Jon Moscot. And in the very next at-bat, they finally got on the board with a two-run homer to right field by Murphy. It was Murphy's 10th homer of the season in his 55th game with the Nats. This is the fourth time in his career he's reached double digits in homers for season. He is now on pace for 28 home runs this year, which would double his career-high of 14 set last year. Murphy also singled in the fifth inning to record his 27th multi-hit game in 55 total outings this season.
Harper breaks through: Harper had three singles on Sunday to notch his first three-hit game since April 15. It's just the second time this season he's had three hits in one game in 54 total outings. Last year he had 13 three-hit games in 153 appearances. Harper's three hits were as many as he'd posted in his previous five games combined. Harper, by the way, has not had a four-hit game since April 17, 2013. He's done it twice in his career, having also had four hits on Sept. 11, 2012 during his rookie season.
Up next: The Nats take Monday off before moving on to Chicago play the White Sox. The opener will see Joe Ross (5-4, 2.37) matched up against the White Sox' latest addition, James Shields (2-7, 4.28) who was just brought in through a trade with the Padres. This will be Shields' White Sox debut.