Nationals

Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Trevor Bauer had seen this flight path before, but it came when he turned around and launched a baseball over the center-field fence from the mound in Kansas City. The July 28 heave marked his last start for the Cleveland Indians.

Wednesday, Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon provided the emphasis for neck-craning toward center with back-to-back homers. Bauer was pummeled in the fifth when he allowed eight earned runs. The Nationals scored a season-high 10 runs in the inning. Rendon hit his career-high 26th home run. Every player in the lineup scored at least once. Stephen Strasburg even wrangled his way into a 3-2 count before flipping a single to right field to help the inning roll early.

The fifth served as a full meal, the sixth as a dessert: six more runs, a bump to a season-high 17 total, Rendon receiving an early break before Thursday’s off-day. The lead was so large, even Sean Doolittle found a way to a day off. 

By sundown, the three-game sweep was complete after a 17-7 win. Washington is a season-high 10 games over .500. The Nationals’ record would be sufficient to lead the NL Central. It’s only good for second place in the National League East where the surging Braves started the day a season-high 21 games over .500. It’s also only good for a narrow wild-card lead, 2 ½ games in front of Milwaukee, which will be in town this weekend, and 3 ½ in front of the Mets, who were playing the Braves on Wednesday night, and Phillies, who were facing the Cubs. But, it’s better than what transpired to start the season.

 

The long grind to 65-55 looks like this:

March: 1-2

April: 11-14

May: 12-17

June: 18-8

July: 15-10

August: 8-4

That’s 24-33 followed by 41-22. 

“No one remembers what we did in May,” Davey Martinez said. “Just keep playing the way we’re playing now and keep on rolling.”

Seventeen members of Washington’s current 25-man roster were born before 1990. In real life, that’s not a “veteran” group. In baseball terms, it’s a well-worn ensemble that thinks experience has helped them pull apart opposing starting pitchers after putting an eye on them for an inning or two. That was the case for Bauer on Wednesday. He cruised through four innings before the potholed fifth.

That inning stunned the Reds’ enigmatic pitcher. He detailed how tried to handle each hitter in the doomed fifth and was just left to scratch his head after assessing the whole pot. 

“They got a hit on my changeup, slider, four-seam, two-seam,” Bauer said. “I don't know. It's kind of confusing when you're there. I don't know what else short of throwing an eephus pitch or changing an arm angle. You're just trying to guess.”

Strutting to a 17-7 win capped a quality day for the Nationals overall. Max Scherzer started the day by saying he feels ready to get back on a major-league mound. Martinez signaled things are going well. The team set a season-high for runs scored in an inning and a game. Thursday gives everyone a break before Milwaukee arrives. 

“We’ve wanted to be tested all year. We talked about this spring training, being in a really good division,” Eaton said. “Every game matters. And I think playoff-bound teams, especially coming out of this division, are going to be very weathered and are going to see a lot of big games. We’re ready for it. We’re excited for it. It’s going to be a good weekend. And I’m excited for the fans to come out this weekend. I think that’s something that’s really going to show up for us and kind of bring the heat against them. It should be fun.”

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