Game in a nutshell: After a four-game sweep against a hapless team in Houston, the Nationals figured to face a stiffer test tonight against an Arizona club trying to hang on in the NL wild-card race. But what began as a tight pitchers' duel between Stephen Strasburg and Trevor Cahill turned into a rout. Ryan Zimmerman launched a two-run homer in the fifth. Michael Morse crushed a solo shot to deep right-center in the sixth. And the Nats piled on in the ninth to run away with it. Strasburg, meanwhile, merely tossed a one-hitter over six strong innings to earn his 13th win of the year. Thus, the Nationals earned their seventh consecutive victory, and at 70-43 they're on pace for 100 wins at season's end.
Hitting highlight: We could highlight the homers by Zimmerman and Morse, each of them towering shots. But how about some love for Steve Lombardozzi? The rookie tripled in the third, singled in the fifth, singled in the seventh and then was credited with another single in the ninth (though pitcher Mike Zagurski may have tagged him on the back before his foot hit the base). Regardless, it was the second time this season Lombardozzi has compiled four hits. He also scored four times, helping lead an impressive offensive attack against the Arizona pitching staff.
Pitching highlight: What would Davey Johnson have done if Strasburg didn't allow a hit through six innings but had a pitch count of 105? We'll never know, but the veteran skipper is probably glad he didn't have to contemplate such a scenario, because he probably would have had to make a very unpopular decision. Despite the dominant numbers, Strasburg wasn't totally sharp during this outing. He uncharacteristically walked four batters and expended a lot of energy (and sweat) throwing those 105 pitches. It's a testament to his overall stuff and ability to pitch that he could still hold a pretty good lineup to one run and one hit over six innings. Sadly, there were no offensive fireworks from the right-hander in this one. Strasburg went 0-for-3 with three groundouts, seeing his batting average plummet from .343 to .316.
Key stat: Nine of Morse's 11 homers this season have been hit to center or right fields. Tonight's blast to right-center traveled 446 feet, the longest opposite-field homer in the majors this season according to ESPN Hit Tracker.
Up next: Game 2 of this series features veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson against left-hander Wade Miley, who at 12-7 with a 2.85 ERA is making a case for NL Rookie of the Year honors. First pitch will be at 8:10 p.m. EDT.
Bring out the powder blues!
In the decade and a half since the Nationals franchise relocated from Montreal to Washington, D.C. in 2005, the Nationals have only worn throwback uniforms honoring the Washington Senators, who played in the Nation's Capitol from 1901-1960 before the franchise moved to Minnesota and became the current Minnesota Twins. They have not once worn any Expos throwbacks.
That all changes on July 6, when the Nationals will sport the signature Montreal Expos powder blue uniforms against the Kansas City Royals as the Nationals celebrate the franchise's 50th anniversary, according to the Washington Post.
The uniform features powder blue jerseys and pants, with the tri-color red, white, and blue signature Expos cap.
The Royals will also be donning throwback uniforms from their inaugural 1969 season, taking the field in their original road grey uniforms with a cursive "Kansas City" across their chest in Royal blue.
The Nationals are honoring the Expos in more ways than just sporting their old uniforms. Nationals Park will also be going through a makeover, as the Expos 'M' will replace the Nationals 'Curly W' across the park for the afternoon. Additionally, concessions will offer traditional Canadian food, such as poutine, Montreal smoked brisket sandwiches and more.
Expos legend Vladimir Guerrero will also be in attendance. Other members of the Nationals, such as manager Dave Martinez, third base coach Bob Henley, and MASN broadcaster F.P. Santangelo will be honored for their contributions to the Expos as well.
July 6 should be an exciting day at Nationals Park.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS:
It's no secret that Max Scherzer has been having the best month of his career. As whispers of a fourth Cy Young begin following his commanding starts this season, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo joined the chorus.
"We're seeing something from a major league pitcher that we’re very fortunate because we get to see this every fifth day and this is historical stuff," Rizzo said on The Sports Junkies Wednesday. "This is one of the great pitchers of our time and a hall of fame caliber guy and a guy who leaves it on the mound each and every day."
To add to his dominant June, Scherzer allowed only one run and recorded 10 strikeouts over eight innings in the Nationals' 6-1 win over the Miami Marlins Tuesday night.
"He wills himself to win and he wills himself to go the extra inning, the extra pitch," Rizzo said.
Many are calling Scherzer's consistent greatness this month the most dominant time of his career. According to NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas, the only month in his career that comes close to his June 2019 dominance is June 2017, when Scherzer boasted a 0.99 ERA, pitched 36 ⅓ innings, recorded 51 strikeouts, six walks, and a 0.55 WHIP. This June, Scherzer has more strikeouts and a lower ERA.
"He's one of the best pitchers in the league," Rizzo said. "Day in and day out, start in and start out, he gives you an opportunity to win, he gives you his best, he leaves everything on the mound each and every time."
Scherzer has one more start left this month against the Detroit Tigers, the three-day series in Detroit beginning Friday. Until then, Scherzer can rest his arm with two remaining games in the three-game series with the Marlins Wednesday and Thursday at 7:10 p.m.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS: