In their 5-3 victory over the New York Mets at Nationals Park, the middle of the Nationals’ order came alive and offered a glimpse of what their offense may be capable of if Zimmerman, LaRoche and Morse all find their swing at the same time. The Nationals’ 3-4-5 hitters have been equal parts inconsistent and nonexistent, but Wednesday they went 5 for 9 with two walks and drove in all five of the Nationals’ runs.
“This is what we were talking about in spring training,” LaRoche said. “This is what we’re capable of doing. It’s just getting everybody going at once.”
LaRoche provided the most crucial effort, launching a three-run homer in the first inning off Mets rookie starter Jeremy Hefner and driving in four runs. By himself, LaRoche gave Edwin Jackson all the runs he required for his second win of the season.
The Nationals’ top three starting pitchers overshadow Jackson, but Wednesday he lowered his ERA to 3.11 while yielding two earned runs in seven innings on three hits and four walks, giving a needed break to the bullpen, every member of which pitched Tuesday night.
“After having a game like we had last night, I had the incentive to try to help those guys out,” Jackson said. “They’ve been helping us all year.”
By the time “Ready Or Not” blared and Tyler Clippard jogged in from right field, the Miami Marlins had already lost to the Atlanta Braves. Clippard’s fifth save in five tries increased the Nationals’ lead to two games. The Nationals are 14-7 against the NL East, perhaps the toughest division in baseball.
The middle of the Nationals’ order made their statement, but the 19-year-old who drilled a walk-off hit the night before sparked their pivotal rally. With one out in the first, Bryce Harper ripped a groundball toward second baseman Daniel Murphy. The ball deflected off his glove, and without a moment’s hesitation Harper bolted for second.
Zimmerman worked a walk, which brought LaRoche to the plate. LaRoche had fallen into an 11-for-70 funk, including 0 for 13 on this homestand. His on-base percentage dropped from .431 on May 12 to .360 entering Wednesday night.
LaRoche rarely takes early batting practice, but he senses when he needs it. Tuesday , he joined a small cluster of teammates at 2:30 p.m. and took extra pitches.
“It’s a funny feeling as a hitter,” LaRoche said. “I don’t know if I can explain it. When you’re seeing the ball big, everything’s quiet. You’re not in a hurry to get through the at-bat. That’s kind of what I’ve been hunting the past few days. I have no idea how to describe it. I honestly a lot of times don’t know where to find it.”