Another day, another outburst by the Nationals offense against an over-matched Reds pitching staff. This time it was National League leading hitter Daniel Murphy doing the key damage as Washington routed Cincinnati 14-4 for its third straight victory coming out of the All-Star break.
NATIONALS 14 Reds 4
Record- 55-36, 9.5 games ahead of Atlanta in the National League East
WP- Roark (7-6) LP- Bailey (2-3)
HR- Murphy, Was 2(16), Lind, Was (7), Rendon, Was (19), Lobaton, Was (3)
There are slow-pitch softball teams who don’t put up the runs at the level the Washington Nationals have this season. The Cincinnati Reds are the latest team to run into the Nats’ buzz saw of an attack, falling on Sunday by a 14-4 score. Here’s a look at the key players and numbers from the Nats’ third straight win this weekend and their fourth victory in a row overall.
STARS OF THE GAME
Daniel Murphy is a student of hitting who works at his craft with a dedication matched by few. Over the past few seasons Murphy has not only been a student, he’s been a teacher of lessons that have been tough to stomach for opposing pitchers. The Cincinnati Reds know that all too well after today, as Murphy went 3 for 4 with two home runs and five RBI to lead the Nats to an easy win. The two homer game was the second of Murphy’s time in DC, with the first coming against, of course, the Mets in June of 2016. Murphy’s day lifted his National League leading batting average to .348, 20 points ahead of teammate Bryce Harper’s .328 mark. Only Houston’s Jose Altuve, at .350, has a better average than Murphy among all qualified Major Leaguers.
While Murphy, Harper, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman are typically the Nats’ hitters doing most of the damage, this year’s squad has contributors up and down the roster. On Sunday, several of those unsung contributors stood out. Wilmer Difo had three hits, scored three runs, stole a base and drove in a run. Adam Lind also had three hits including a home run, scored two runs and drove in three. Even former Reds outfielder Chris Heisey got into the act against his old team on Sunday, going 3 for 5 with two runs scored and a RBI.
Starting pitcher Tanner Roark had a strong outing, allowing only three unearned runs and four hits in six innings pitched to earn his seventh win on the year. Roark and three relievers held the Reds without an extra-base hit.
Washington scored 14 or more runs for the seventh time this year and the 22nd time in Nats’ history. Washington also registered its 17th five home run plus game since 2005, and its third of the 2017 season. Three of those 17 games have come against Cincinnati.
Rendon’s long home run to left field was the 19th of season for the talented third baseman, only two shy of career high of 21 set in 2014. Rendon’s 19 this season have come in 317 fewer at bats than it took him to hit 21 three seasons ago.
2017 has been anything but a smooth campaign for veteran Nats’ reliever Joe Blanton, but the righty has shown signs of improvement recently. Blanton pitched a scoreless inning with three strikeouts to post his eighth straight appearance without giving up a run.
STRONG IN DEFEAT
A pair of Reds had good games at the plate. Outfielder Jesse Winker picked up a hit, scored a run and walked three times in five plate appearances. Nats’ killer Scooter Gennett also was up to his old tricks, going 2 for 5 with three runs driven in.
The Nats go for the four game sweep on Monday afternoon, with All-Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg taking the mound. Strasburg, who will be looking to pick up his 10th win in the matinee game, is 1-1 with a 6.75 in four career games started at Cincinnati. He’s fared well in the past against Zack Cozart (0-10 with two strikeouts) and Eugenio Suarez (0 for 5, two strikeouts), while struggling against Gennett (4 for 8, three home runs).
Opposing Strasburg will be veteran Scott Feldman, who is 7-6 with a 3.94 ERA on the year. The tall righty has won five of his last seven decisions, and has a 3.00 ERA in home games in 2017. Stephen Drew (7-16, two triples, two homers) and Lind (three homers and six RBI in 23 career at bats) have done well against Feldman, while Rendon (1 for 6 with two strikeouts) has had difficulty.