The Nationals' pitching staff just capped it's best run in team history with 24 consecutive scoreless innings, a weekend highlighted by Max Scherzer's no-hitter on Saturday against the Pirates.
The pitchers deserve their credit, no doubt. But the Nationals' lineup hasn't exactly been dragging their feet.
In Sunday's win, the Nationals scored nine runs in the first inning alone. That gives them 63 runs in their last 10 games compared to 56 in their previous 20.
Nine runs was the best first inning in team history and tied for the best frame a Nationals team has ever had. They last scored nine runs in one inning on May 31 of 2010.
"It's fun to be apart of," Clint Robinson said. "Sometimes, you know, hitting is contagious, I've said all along. So when guys string together hits like that, it can create a snowball effect, and it did. It made it easy for us to get ahead and go out and get that win."
Robinson had a double in the first inning and scored on a single by Jose Lobaton. Their other eight runs came on homers by Bryce Harper (2 RBI) and Yunel Escobar (3 RBI), a double by pitcher Gio Gonzalez, a single by Michael Taylor and a wild pitch by Pirates starter Charlie Morton that scored Ian Desmond.
The Nationals have now scored nine runs or more 10 times this season in 70 games. They scored nine or more 13 times all of last season. The Nats now rank fourth in runs this season compared to ninth last year. As streaky as they have been at times, the total numbers stack up favorably with the rest of MLB.
Harper knows that, and thinks even when the lineup has gone cold, it hasn't been as bad as many have made it out to be.
"Everybody says we're struggling, but I don't think as a team that we're struggling. We're doing pretty dang good," he said. "We just played great ball and had some great pitching this weekend. If we can do that, we'd win 162 games. We'll go through times where we've had ups and downs in this game where the ball just didn't fall our way. But we had a great weekend, hopefully we can take this into next week and stay in first place."
Harper's parents were in town for Father's Day and attended Sunday's game. His father, Ron, has been a big influence in his life and career and Bryce said it was special to deliver with his 24th homer of the season.
"It was awesome, being able to do that in the first at-bat. Him being able to come out and enjoy that. Very cool moment. It was a good opportunity to get us on the board. Very happy we got that W and got that sweep," he said.
Gonzalez followed Scherzer's no-hitter with seven scoreless innings in addition to his double. Scherzer also had a hit on Saturday, but it was a single, and Gonzalez was quick to point that out.
"I was just tired of Maxi trying to be number one hitting. I finally bumped up somewhere in that ranking of pitchers than can hit," he said. "Max is not going to beat me on a base hit. I’m going to go up there and try and get a double.”
The Nationals are off Monday before the Atlanta Braves come to town for a three-game series. The Braves have had plenty of problems with their pitching staff this season and could offer a good opportunity for the Nats' offense to keep on rolling.