The Nationals dispatched the Mets, 6-4, pushing their record to 29 games over .500 and maintaining a four-game lead in the National League East. The taste of losing seasons was replaced by an energized fan base, a healthy and potent lineup and a dominating array of pitchers. The buzz could have been felt across the Anacostia River.
“It makes you a little kid again to kind of look around,” starting pitcher Ross Detwiler said of the atmosphere provided by the crowd of 34,827. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world.”
“We’re playing good baseball,” said shortstop Ian Desmond, who was activated from the disabled list before the game. “Everyone’s hustling and playing the game the right way. It was nice to see them come out. Obviously these aren’t probably the biggest games we’re playing on this homestand. But they were out supporting us tonight.”
The thought of having everyone together for Friday’s game was so mouth-watering that Nationals Manager Davey Johnson penciled out a lineup with Desmond’s name in it days in advance. Injuries had claimed, for varying stretches of the season, Morse, Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth. But Friday, an offense that had already defiantly shed its midseason torpor was as complete as it would be this season.
Desmond failed to log a hit in four at-bats, though his timing didn’t seem terribly off after 25 games away. But the Nationals don’t depend on him to the extent they did earlier this season. He could jump back into the lineup and be boosted by the bats of Werth, Bryce Harper, Zimmerman and Morse. Those first four hitters of the lineup went a combined 7 for 15 with six RBI on Friday. Harper showed signs of potentially breaking out of his slump, hitting a single and a laser of a two-run home run.
“The whole middle of the lineup is really in a good spot, and that’s why we’ve been scoring a lot of runs,” Johnson said.
The Nationals fell behind 2-0 in the first inning as Detwiler struggled with his command. His fastballs were too high in the strike zone and he couldn’t find a good feel of his secondary pitches. There were lingering effects of the nose and stomach illness that affected his last start. It resulted in three straight base hits and two runs, then a four-pitch walk — all with two outs.
From the second inning until his exit after the sixth, it was completely different for Detwiler. His sinkers dipped and induced groundballs —13 of them in all. Detwiler’s recovery was enough to allow his teammates at the plate to erase his early errors.