The Nationals have played their last 23 games against the National League and American League East. They have gone 15-8 in those games and lead the NL East by five games and the last-place Philadelphia Phillies by 91
“We knew we could do it,” Johnson said. “We’re no longer a secret to anybody.”
The baseball world will turn Friday to Washington, where Nationals Park will host a weekend showdown between the first-place New York Yankees and the first-place Nationals, baseball’s old money and its furious upstarts. The Nationals will enter confident in their standing, but hungry for more.
“It’s great what we’ve done,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “We’re happy about it and proud of it. But we know it doesn’t mean anything.”
The Nationals have risen to their lofty status both riding and producing the fevered joy that comes when a new hero emerges each game. With LaRoche nursing a sore right foot after fouling a ball off it on Tuesday night, the Nationals turned to Moore, the 25-year-old Mississippian who started the year at Class AAA Syracuse and had slugged 62 homers over the past two seasons in the minor leagues.
In his first stint in the major leagues earlier this season, Moore appeared sparingly and went 3 for 19 with seven strikeouts. He learned that, while not playing every day, he needed to be more aggressive.
“The first time, I didn’t really know what I was going to be doing coming off the bench,” said Moore, who was recalled from Syracuse last week. “I felt more comfortable with what I had to do.”
Wednesday, he gave himself a memory. In his first at-bat, he came to the plate with two runners in scoring position and crushed a double to left-center field off of starter Kyle Drabek, giving Strasburg a 2-0 lead.
After the Blue Jays tied the score in the third inning, Moore struck again. In the fourth, with one man on base, he clobbered a two-run homer to left field, the first of his career. He circled the bases with his lips clenched.
“He was trying not to smile, I think,” said fellow rookie Steve Lombardozzi, who played with Moore for three years in the minors.