By Cam Ellis
Postgame analysis of the Nats' 9-1 win over Phillies in the opening game of their weekend series:
How it happened: Michael A. Taylor, the Nats' leadoff hitter, crushed a 1-0 pitch into left field and the team was off to the races. Four batters later, Jayson Werth, up with the bases loaded, laced a three-run double into left center, advancing to third on an errant throw. Danny Espinosa followed that up with an RBI single, and before the Phillies had a single at-bat, they were down 5-0. Starter Joe Ross was sharp, pitching 7.2 scoreless innings while allowing three hits, walking two and striking out five. Espinosa would tally another RBI in the 5th, Bryce Harper homered again in the 6th and the Nats moved to a franchise-best 8-1.
What it means: Well, a win's never a bad thing. Granted, they were playing the Phillies - a team in the middle of rebuilding and expected to lose close to 100 games again this year. Nonetheless, picking up divisional wins always means a little more, and with the Mets and maybe even the Marlins expected to stay competitive for most of the season, it's always important to pick up wins against the lesser teams in the division.
Joe Ross impresses, again: Who says that the backend of the rotation has to be a weakness? Joe Ross, the Nationals 5th starter, has looked anything but so far this year. After going seven strong in his season debut last week, Ross followed that up with another quality start on Friday night. Although Ross had his sinker working, it was the slider he did the most damage with - getting four of his five strikeouts with the pitch. Ross got stronger as the game went on, particularly in the middle innings when he got through the 5th, 6th and 7th innings on 24 pitches. The pedigree and talent at the top of the Nats' rotation is well documented, but if Ross - a first-round draft pick himself - can continue to pitch like this, watch out.
Ah, the memories: It's been a slow start to the season for Jayson Werth. Through eight games this year, the outfielder is hitting .185/.313/.370 with a .683 OPS. Manager Dusty Baker even gave Werth a day off the other day to try and give him a "reset" of sorts. Whether it was the day off or the nostalgia of being back in Philly, a city where he played at an all-star level for four years, Werth put together his best game this season. Hitting in the six-hole, Werth went 2-5 with two doubles and three RBI. He put some good swings on the ball, and even his outs were hard hit. Werth's best game at the plate coinciding with the Nationals' highest offensive output of the season is no coincidence.
Wait, what?: It doesn't mean anything, but here's a fun fact from last night. Last night, Bryce Harper had three hits in four at-bats, including a home run. He only saw six pitches between all four at-bats.
Jackie Robinson Day: April 15th is MLB's annual Jackie Robinson Day, a celebration of the hall-of-famer most known for breaking baseball's color barrier. Everyone on the field last night was wearing his number, 42, which is simultaneously cool to see and wildly confusing from a player identification standpoint.
Up next: The Nats and Phillies are back in action again tonight at 7:05. It'll be an intriguing matchup on the mound as Nationals $200 million man Max Scherzer goes up against Phillies top pitching prospect, Aaron Nola.