The Nationals’ lineup has been so potent of late that their recent five-game losing streak, during which their bats went nearly silent, is long forgotten. Since then, they have averaged 7.6 runs per game. The lineup has swung well enough that the Cubs couldn’t even stomach facing the eighth hitter in the Nationals’ lineup, Suzuki, intentionally walking him twice.
“It’s just men playing against boys right now,” said Sveum, who was tossed in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes when Michael Morse was batting.
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The hitting parade bordered on the absurd. Backup outfielder Roger Bernadina led off the third inning by smashing a home run to center field off Cubs right-hander starter Chris Volstad to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead. Harper then slammed a ball against the back wall of the visitor’s bullpen in left field, waving to his family in the stands as he crossed home plate. Zimmerman singled and LaRoche hammered a ball to left field for a two-run home run, his fourth homer in three games.
LaRoche leads all NL first baseman with 28 home runs and 90 RBI. The smooth-swinging left-hander had reached base nine straight times before he struck out in the seventh inning.
“You get in a streak like, ‘Why can I not do this all the time?’ ” LaRoche said. “It comes so easy at times. You try to file away that feeling and what you’re doing so next time you fall into a rut you can relate back to it.”
Harper added a towering shot into the second deck in right field in the sixth inning, the second multi-home run game of his young career and the second time he has done so in eight days. His 17th long ball moved him into third place all-time for home runs by a teenager in one season, behind Tony Conigliaro’s 24 and Mel Ott’s 18. Asked if it was special to have his family there to witness his two home runs, Harper deadpanned: “They’ve seen it a couple times.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Ian Desmond drilled a ball to deep center field in the eighth for his 21st home run of the season. Danny Espinosa followed with a home run, not too far to the left of where Desmond’s ball landed. The Nationals were running out of places to deposit balls in the stands, another opponent frustrated in their wake.
“Good teams take nothing for granted,” Johnson said. “The cellar guys down at the bottom, they a lot of times have more energy, more to prove by beating the guys at the top. We’ve been down there enough we know what it’s like and we’re not letting up.”