Nats homer thrice in four-hit shutout of Marlins
Harper, Werth, Desmond go deep; Gio scatters three hits over seven
By Bill Ladson / 8/30/2013 12:23 AM ET
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals used the long ball, hitting three homers and blanking the Marlins, 9-0, at Nationals Park on Thursday night.
The Nats swept the three-game series and are now 6 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second and final National League Wild Card spot. The Reds were idle Thursday, but they play a three game-series against the Rockies in Colorado starting Friday.
"I've been feeling great [about the Nationals]," said outfielder Bryce Harper, who hit the first homer of the night. "We've been back 13 games, 14 games. We really have a lot of time left. We have a month left. We're excited to get going and hopefully make a run at it."
For left-hander Gio Gonzalez, the victory brought back memories of how good the Nationals were last year, when they won the NL East title. Against Miami, Washington had solid pitching and timely hitting.
The Nationals were able to get on the scoreboard off right-hander Tom Koehler in the fourth. After Ryan Zimmerman led off the inning with a walk, Harper swung at the first pitch and hit the ball over the left-field wall to give Washington a 2-0 lead.
Two innings later, the Nats scored four runs to make it a 6-0 game, thanks to the red-hot Jayson Werth. After Zimmerman led off with a single and Harper drew a walk, Werth swung at a 2-1 pitch and hit a three-run homer over the left-field wall for his 21st home run of the season.
Dating back to July 1, Werth is 68-for-175 (.389) with 13 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .476 on-base percentage. One can argue that Werth is Washington's Most Valuable Player.
"He is locked in right now. It has been a fun ride," said Ian Desmond, who homered in the seventh.
Said Zimmerman, "Since he has been off the [disabled list], [Werth] has been the best player in baseball. I think he has done a lot to get us back to where we are. He has really carried this team pretty much until all of us [were able to get] healthy. I can't really say enough about him."
Werth is on the verge of having his best season in the big leagues since 2009 when he was with the Phillies. But he is not ready to analyze the 2013 season yet.
"I still don't want to talk about the whole thing. I'm going to keep going. Silence is golden," Werth said. "We are playing some good baseball and we need to keep going. We waited all year to go on a run, so it's kind of now or never."
Four batters after the Werth home run, Desmond scored on single by Anthony Rendon.
The Nationals went yard against right-hander Sam Dyson an inning later, when Desmond cracked a three-run homer that barely cleared the left-field wall to make it a nine-run game.
Even Marlins manager Mike Redmond has taken notice how consistent Washington's offense has been lately.
"These guys are swinging the bats great," Redmond said. "It's the best we've seen them all year. They're swinging. They've got some guys red-hot, as you can see. They have the ability to put the ball in the seats. One swing, a couple runs, three runs. Those two home runs were huge. That's the difference. It's not rocket science."
The run support was more than enough for Gonzalez, who won his eighth game of the season. He pitched seven shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out eight batters. Gonzalez looked shaky during the first two innings, allowing two runners to get on base in each of the frames.
"I'm thinking, 'Oh, my goodness. ... If I can get five [innings] out of him," manager Davey Johnson said.
But after Gonzalez went into the locker room to change his jersey because of the muggy weather, closer Rafael Soriano told Gonzalez to fix his mechanics on the mound. Soriano's advice helped Gonzalez retire 15 out of the next 16 hitters he faced.
"Soriano was telling me to stay back, your arm is dropping way too low, you are trying to rush." Gonzalez remembered. As soon as I picked that up, I started getting into a grove. Then two runs game in the fourth. After that, it was the Nats that I remember that went out there and swung the bats, putting up runs on the board. It's nice when they score you nine. It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders. It looks like we are getting our groove back. You can see the vibe and the chemistry. It's just getting better and better."
Tanner Roark blanked the Marlins the last two innings to close out the Nationals' 68th win of the season.