The Nationals picked a really good time to have their big players-only meeting, Wednesday night, following a sweep at home at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. The Nationals had lost five in a row and 15 of 19, and were outscored by the Red Sox 18-7. Whatever spin certain of their players tried to put on it, the situation had gotten about as grim as it could get in early July.
But that’s not what made the timing so appropriate. No, the timing was exactly right because the Nationals walked out of their players-only meeting and into a four-game series with the dreadful Miami Marlins, and nothing heals an ailing lineup—no, not even getting yelled at by Max Scherzer—like a few sunny days spent kicking the crap out of the sad-sack Marlins. The Nationals came into the series on an 11-game winning streak against the Marlins, and the Marlins have so far played their part to perfection, allowing just about all the breakout fireworks the Nationals have been missing these long months.
Trea Turner was the hero in Thursday’s historic come-from-behind victory, but the Nationals still had the sour taste of allowing 12 runs to the Marlins in their mouths. Friday cleansed that, with a nice pitching duel that saw Gio Gonzalez work around his own mistakes in characteristically zany fashion, surrendering eight hits and four walks on 114 pitches over five innings, but holding the Marlins to just two runs. The game reached the bottom of the ninth tied at two apiece, and pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds led off the frame with a walk-off dinger to left-center.
Having checked off the boxes for Stirring Comeback Win and Gritty Low-Scoring Win, the Nationals spent Saturday working on a breezy Lopsided Ass-Kicking Win, battering Marlins pitchers to the tune of 17 hits, six extra-base hits, and three dingers, in an 18-4 wipeout. The hero was once again Mark Reynolds, who collected an absurd 10 runs batted in on five hits and a pair of soaring dingers:
Crucially, the Nationals finally got Max Scherzer a win, his first in more than a month. The sagging Nats offense put up a combined four runs with Scherzer on the mound over his last five starts—Saturday they put up at least five runs in two separate innings, before Scherzer took a seat after the seventh. It’s just truly heart-warming how the Marlins have been available to salve every open sore for these struggling Nationals. Hell, even the frighteningly unproductive Bryce Harper had a three-hit day on Saturday, his first multi-hit day with no strikeouts since late May.
The Nationals have now won 14 in a row over the Marlins, and have gone from an angsty, irritable team searching for new approaches to a confident bunch getting heroic and/or historic performances from a different guy each night. They’ve got the Marlins one more time before they head out on a seven-game road trip to wrap up the first half of the season. Who can say what sort of thrilling and soul-rejuvenating win the Marlins plan on offering up on a lovely Sunday afternoon?