In the words of color commentator F.P. Santangelo, “Another day, another W.”
After winning the first two games against the visiting Chicago White Sox by a combined four runs earlier in the week, the 7-2 Washington Nationals continued their hot streak Thursday, completing the three-game sweep of the American League foe with a 7-4 victory. While the Nats remain undefeated at home at 6-0, they will unquestionably face another strong opponent tomorrow as the 8-1 Atlanta Braves come to town for a weekend battle.
Notably, newly acquired Nationals pitcher Dan Haren (W, 1-1) rebounded strongly from a horrific start against the Cincinnati Reds last weekend. Though his command is still far from perfect, the former All-Star went five strong in this one, allowing 10 hits and three runs while striking out five. The damage came relatively early when catcher Tyler Flowers grounded out to short in the 2nd scoring Paul Konerko, followed by two RBI singles in the 4th behind the bats of Alejandro De Aza and Jeff Keppinger. Regardless, Haren still has a lot of work to do to fully earn his one year, $13 million contract in my eyes, but nevertheless, a solid start by the No. 4 starter on one of the best teams in baseball right now.
To help compensate for some of Haren’s inefficiencies, the Nationals’ bats continued to do their job to keep the home team in contention from start to finish. The Nats struck first in the opening frame, as Jayson Werth singled, stole second, and advanced to third on a throwing error by Flowers to quickly put a man in scoring position. Adam LaRoche would complete the scoring effort, driving in Werth on a single to shallow left.
Next, the Nats would add two more in the 3rd off of White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod (L, 0-1) behind the power of a Bryce Harper RBI single and Ian Desmond sacrifice fly to bulk up the lead to 3-1. Washington eventually did enough to put the game out of reach in the bottom of the 4th when Ryan Zimmerman knocked a 2-RBI double, bringing the Nationals’ run total to six. And, naturally, Harper would up his batting average to .417 in the 8th with yet another RBI single, driving home Denard Span for the Nats’ seventh run of the contest.
Though he as well continues to find a rhythm, closer Rafael Soriano earned his fifth save in six opportunities before the three-hour plus affair was all said and done. Ever-reliable Ryan Mattheus struggled in two innings of relief, but excitingly for us die-hards, former closer Tyler Clippard would pitch a strong 8th on just 11 pitches.