That’s not what anybody, including the Nats, expected on opening day. It may or may not continue. But the simple reality is that this team, battered by major injuries to key players all season, is finally getting healthy and hitting a ton, even against excellent pitchers. Since the Nats already have the game’s best pitching staff, that’s pretty scary.
For three months, the Nats have been wondering what kind of team they would have if they were ever fairly healthy? What if proven hitters Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse were providing merely normal production? If they are this good at winning one-run games with almost no offense, what could they be with their real lineup?
The answer: Fireworks.
On the Fourth of July, the Nats lit up 10-win Giant lefty Madison Bumgarner like a brunch-time pyrotechnic display, bombing him with three homers, a double that missed leaving the park by inches and seven earned runs in a 9-4 stomp of the Giants.
The Nats scored 33 runs in their last three games in mile-high Colorado, beat the Braves two of three in Atlanta — scoring 18 runs in that spacious park — and greeted the Giants with a pair of nine-run explosions.
Who’s hot? Who isn’t? Ian Desmond (another two-RBI hit), Danny Espinosa, with five hits against the Giants, and Bryce Harper, with two line drive hits lashed off Bumgarner, all are in the cast. “Hitting builds momentum and confidence,” said Zimmerman. “It’s just contagious.
“Pro sports are about health. Guys who have produced for years, if they are healthy, their numbers will be what they always are. It’s just that we’re finally getting healthy. This is what we envisioned. But there were a lot of speed bumps,” said Zimmerman, who has been revived by a cortisone shot to his ailing shoulder.
In three at-bats against Bumgarner, Zimmerman almost impaled the elite lefty with a line drive, hit a double six inches from the top of the left-field wall and finished his torture by scorching a homer over the right field scoreboard on a full-count low-and-away change-up. Morse followed that blast by crushing an 0-2 fastball on the low-outside corner off the back wall of the right-field bullpen. Both gopher balls were on “pitcher’s pitches.”
That’s good news. Here’s the better news. Since his cortisone shot, which relieved pain in his right shoulder, Zimmerman has hit .370, with 15 RBI, in 10 games. Almost every season, Zimmerman gets hot on or around July 4th. It’s weird. Those streaks usually last about six weeks and he hits about .390; so 30 more game of this would be standard.
In his last eight games, Morse is hitting .457 with nine RBI. Once Morse breaks out, how long does he stay hot? Last year, he cracked an early slump and hit .331 with a 1.009 OPS the next 100 games. So, he ought to cool off by the League Championship Series.