>>> It would be fair to call the Nationals’ late-innings outburst improbable. The Nationals entered the ninth inning batting .222 as a team on the season. From that point on, they went 6 for 13. Entering the game, they had scored 3.66 runs per game. They scored six in the last three innings and four in the 11th alone.
>>> Laynce Nix went 3 for 5 with a double, raising his slash line for the year to .284/.294/.507. Nix has started seven straight seven straight games, and after Tuesday’s win he said the regular playing time has helped him start strong – he already has four homers, the same number he hit all of last season.
“I didn’t start as many games last year,” Nix said. “Last year, I had a slightly different approach. All my home runs came as a starter except one. I’m getting to see more pitches, and having better rhythm and timing at the plate helps.”
Before last night’s game, Riggleman said he started Nix again even though he considered Michael Morse healthy enough to play. With Derek Lowe, another right-hander, starting for the Braves tonight, Nix could get another start.
>>> The Nationals do not play easy games. Their largest margin of victory this year is four runs, which they’ve done five times. In two of those four-run victories, they won by scoring four runs in the 11th inning.
>>> Jayson Werth looks like he might be, in his words, about to “get locked in and start raking.” He has hits in five of six games and homers in two straight. He went 2 for 5 with a walk last night. We’re not saying he’s totally left his season-opening funk behind – those two homers are his only extra-base hits since April 28. But this series could be the start for him turning it around.
>>> Alex Cora came into the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning then went 2 for 2, driving in two runs with a single to tie the game in the ninth and scoring a run in the 11th. He also ended the 10th by handling a tricky chopper at third.
Cora often gets mentioned for his ability to mentor Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond, which is true and nice, but he’s been an effective player when called upon. This is a small and arbitrary sample, but Cora is 11 for his last 29.
“I just prepare myself early and do my routine, prepare myself like I’m going to start that day,” Cora said. “Obviously, most of the days, I’m not going to start. But that’s the only way you can do it. I’ve always said that you’re a bench by default. I think everyone is capable, in the big leagues, to play every day. When you lose that edge, when you start seeing yourself as a backup guy, a utility guy, you’re going to be out of the game.”
>>> The Nationals could have won earlier had they not squandered many chances. They stranded a runner in scoring position six times from the third to the ninth inning, the most excruciating in the sixth. With two outs in the sixth, Jerry Hairston stood on second base, the Nationals down one and Ian Desmond hitting. With a 1-0 count, Hairston attempted to steal third, and was thrown out. Any hit with two outs probably would have scored Hairston from second, making the steal attempt an unnecessary risk.
“It was an aggressive mistake,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “Jerry’s a pro. He was the first one over to me and said, ‘Hey, Skip, I’m sorry about that, man. I screwed up.’ I said, ‘Hey, we both did. I should have thought that you might go, and I should have held you.’ It’s on both of us.”
>>> John Lannan pitched well enough for them to win earlier, too. He allowed five hits and three walks in six innings, striking out three. He allowed three of the first four batters he faced to reach base, and the only two runs he allowed scored on Brian McCann’s first-inning double. After his opening trouble, Lannan faced only three batters more than the minimum the rest of his outing.
“Coming off last week’s start, I wanted to put that past,” Lannan said, referring to his two-inning implosion in Philadelphia. “I just had to bear and keep it there. Those starts are going to happen like last week. You just got to move on.”
>>> Todd Coffey is on a strikeout mini-rampage. He struck out four batters last night, retiring five of the six hitters he faced, allowing a double to McCann. In his past three appearances, a span of 4 2/3 innings, Coffey has struck out 10 while walking none and allowing five hits, one of which was a solo homer.
>>> The Nationals are now 15-13 without Ryan Zimmerman. I doubt anyone thought they’d keep afloat like they have without him to this point. Every time it’s seemed their season has started teetering, they’ve won a couple in a row.
>>> Wilson Ramos seemed to get down the line slow in his last at-bat, a double play that ended the 11th inning. Jim Riggleman said “he’s fine” after the game. Ivan Rodriguez may play tomorrow, anyway, because Ramos has played two in a row.
FROM THE POST
The Nationals got back to .500 with a 7-3, 11-inning victory over the Braves, a win that saw the Nats use 20 players.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 4, Norfolk 2: Craig Stammen allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings on five hits and no walks, striking out six. Gregor Blanco went 0 for 4. Corey Brown went 2 for 3 with a walk. Chris Marrero went 2 for 4.
Harrisburg 13, Altoona 2: Jesus Valdez went 2 for 4 with a double. Outfielder Bill Rhinehart pitched one scoreless inning, allowing one hit and striking one out.
Potomac 10, Winston-Salem 4: Eury Perez went 2 for 4. Justin Bloxom went 1 for 3 with a triple and two walks. Patrick Lehman pitched one perfect inning with a strikeout. He has a 0.66 ERA for the year.
Hagerstown 11, Delmarva 5: Bryce Harper. Wow. He went 4 for 5 with a grand slam that, apparently, cleared both tiers of signage at Hagerstown’s home park. He’s now hitting .396/.472/.712. Adrian Sanchez also went 4 for 5.