As the hits kept piling up and the balls kept soaring out of Coors Field, the smiles inside the Nationals' dugout kept getting bigger and bigger.
If ever a team needed a 12-run, 21-hit performance, this was it. For the first time in a long time, the Nationals were able to rest easy knowing they had a comfortable lead in hand. Not since a 7-2 victory in Atlanta on May 27 had they won a game by more than four runs.
And they hadn't hit like this since ... well, they hadn't hit like this any previous game this season. You have to go back to May 20, 2011 to find the last time the Nationals scored at least 12 runs (they racked up 17 that night in Baltimore). And you have to go way back to July 11, 2009 in Houston to find the last time they compiled 21 hits (the club record since the franchise arrived in Washington). And you can go back as far as you want but you won't find any previous game in which the Nationals pounded out 11 extra-base hits as they did last night.
Yes, in one fell swoop, this team managed to take the heat off its hitting coach, raise its season batting average four points (from .238 to .242) and slugging percentage eight points (from .387 to .395) and perhaps convince everyone in their clubhouse to request cortisone shots by daybreak.
Try picking one player of the game. You can't. Ryan Zimmerman went 3-for-5, making him 6-for-12 with two doubles and a homer since getting one of those pain-killing shots on his shoulder on Sunday. Michael Morse and Ian Desmond each went 4-for-5, each driving in a pair. Adam LaRoche smacked two homers, raising his team-leading total to 15. And Tyler Moore hit a 440-foot bomb way up into the left-field bleachers, driving in three runs himself with one mighty swing.
This was as cathartic a ballgame as ever there was, for any number of people in Nationals uniforms who desperately needed something like this.
But what was the significance of this in the bigger picture? Was this the breakthrough game that will catapult all these slumping hitters to greater heights and turn their fortunes around? Or was this merely a blip on the radar, a one-time explosion inside the greatest hitters park ever constructed and a precursor to more struggles moving forward?
We don't yet know, but we do know a few things...
1. Zimmerman looks like a brand-new hitter now that he's not feeling any pain in his right shoulder. He looks like the guy who carried this franchise for much of the last six seasons.
2. Morse was too good of a hitter to continue like this for long. With four hits, he raised his batting average an astounding 31 points in one night, from .219 to .250. He certainly appears ready to kick his delayed season into high gear now.
3. Moore looks like the real deal at the plate, a legitimate masher who can produce against left-handers and right-handers alike. The rookie is now hitting .319 with three homers and eight RBI in only 53 plate appearances
4. In a sport in which success is predicated so much on the confidence level of the players involved, there will be no more confident group this morning than the members of the Nationals lineup.
Could all of this become moot in 24 hours? Sure, the Nats could fall back into their offensively challenged ways and never come close to duplicating these feats at the plate.
Just don't tell that to anyone inside that clubhouse, which will be overflowing with confidence and good vibes when both teams take the field for tonight's game.
The only numbers that matter to them today are 12 and 21. They're the numbers that defined the most-productive offensive day this franchise has experienced in a long time.
And right now, there isn't one guy in uniform who doesn't believe they can do this again.