“To spank them in their home park, that’s big,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “Scoring seven runs a couple games in a row, I feel like I’m on vacation.”
During their first two days at Turner Field, the Nationals have turned an early-season showdown into a beat-down. They entered the weekend with a one-game lead, and as they head into their second “Sunday Night Baseball” showcase this month, the Nationals have pulled three games ahead of the Braves, with the Miami Marlins and New York Mets moving into a tie for second, 21
2 games out. Halfway through their late-May test, the Nationals are 4-1.
“It’s gets you good momentum,” Espinosa said. “It gets you confidence as a team to go out there and just play, have a feeling that we’re going to win. We’re feeling good. We’re hot. We can go out there and beat anybody.”
The Nationals, whose offense sputtered through April, have scored at least five runs in five of their past seven games. Even before their 12-hit, two-homer outburst Saturday, they ranked fourth in the majors with a .452 slugging percentage in May.
The Nationals scored one run in the first inning after Espinosa, sporting bloomer-style pants with high socks, led off with a double against left-handed Braves starter Mike Minor. They added three more when Espinosa belted his fifth homer.
The Nationals still have an elite starting rotation, but they no longer rely on it. After Strasburg’s performance, they had to be thankful for that. Strasburg yielded four runs in five innings on six hits and four walks, the most he’s issued since the second start of his career.
“He’s usually picking us up,” Johnson said. “We picked him up today.”
After his last start, Strasburg said he felt fatigue in his arm. Over his last three outings, Strasburg has not recorded an out past the fifth inning and has allowed nine earned runs in 14 innings. His ERA rose to 2.64 Saturday.
“I just don’t think he had a good feel for his fastball,” Johnson said. “Sometimes, you get where you can’t locate with your main pitch. I’ve never seen it happen with him. But there’s nothing physically wrong with him.”