WASHINGTON -- This Nationals lineup might be finally starting to reach its full potential.Two days after scoring a team record for runs in a game, their latest offensive outburst came in the second inning of Thursday's 10-4 victory over the Reds at Nationals Park, where the Nats sent 12 batters
WASHINGTON -- This Nationals lineup might be finally starting to reach its full potential.
Two days after scoring a team record for runs in a game, their latest offensive outburst came in the second inning of Thursday's 10-4 victory over the Reds at Nationals Park, where the Nats sent 12 batters to the plate and scored six runs without the benefit of an extra-base hit.
One of the biggest catalysts of their recent offensive turnaround has been Bryce Harper -- their star slugger, who has struggled at times this season but seems to be turning a corner. Combine his efforts with another strong performance from Max Scherzer, who yielded two runs in six innings with 10 strikeouts, and the Nationals have won three in a row and six of their past eight games.
"Everybody's just doing their job. Everybody's playing good baseball," said Scherzer, who leads the Majors with 15 wins. "You can go around the whole clubhouse. Everybody's just doing their job, doing their role, staying in their lane and going out there and doing everything they can to help the ballclub. We've said from Day 1 this team is as good as anybody in the National League, in baseball. We can compete with everybody. Frankly, we've just been playing better baseball."
Despite the win, Washington was not able to pick up any ground in the National League East after both teams in front of them, the Phillies and Braves, won. The Nats trail the first-place Phillies by five games.
Thursday was still an encouraging game for multiple reasons.
First was Harper, who got the second inning started with an opposite-field single and reached again later in the inning when he drew a bases-loaded walk. He reached base four times, with a pair of walks and a pair of hits, including his 26th homer of the year in the eighth inning, to improve his overall slash line to .230/.377/.492, the highest his batting average has been since June 9.
"Just got to keep going," Harper said. "Keep having good at-bats and doing everything we can to score runs and putting pressure on the other team."
Then, there was the way the Nats put together their second-inning rally, featuring four walks (one intentional), a hit batter and four hits, including a run-scoring single from Scherzer, a two-run single by Trea Turner and an infield single from Anthony Rendon that struck second-base umpire Andy Fletcher. The outburst resulted in a 6-0 lead and chased Reds starter Tyler Mahle from the game after he was charged for all six runs in 1 2/3 innings.
"As a lineup as a whole, we're just putting good at-bats together," said Turner, who also hit a two-run homer in the eighth. "And when we need those timely hits together, we've got them."
If Turner stays hot at the top of the order, while Harper and Daniel Murphy are themselves once again to join the always consistent Rendon and rookie phenom Juan Soto in the middle of the lineup, this Nationals offense could be one of the NL's most dangerous down the stretch as they look to hammer their way back into contention.
"It's huge. We are starting to string at-bats along the whole lineup and that's huge," manager Dave Martinez said. "There's no stopgap. Those guys can continue to do that and take their walks, take their hits. Drive in runs from third base with less than two outs. All those things."
• Soto recorded three walks in this game, and he has now walked multiple times in nine games this season, matching Hall of Famer Mel Ott (1928) for the most by a teenager in a season in modern MLB history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
• Turner has now swiped at least two bases in four of his past five games. He has eight stolen bases since Saturday.
HE SAID IT
"[Hitting coach Kevin] Long before the game challenged me. He said I was 0-for-6 with runners on third base. He got me fired up that, hey, if I get that situation, I've got to get the job done. I've got to find a way to get the hit. He just talked enough trash to me, and I hate when people talk trash to me, so I just got to go out and do something about it." -- Scherzer, on his RBI single
"I looked up and saw [Scherzer] was hitting .290, and I was like, geeze. It does feel like everytime he gets up he gets a hit, too. But he works at it. He's one of the ones that takes it very seriously and wants to win that battle up at the plate. He did a great job tonight of bunting as well. If you work at it, you can be good at it." -- Turner, on Scherzer as a hitter
As the Nationals have started to show signs of a turnaround, so has left-hander Giovany Gonzalez, who will take the mound Friday night against the Reds. Gonzalez tossed seven innings of one-run ball in his last outing, even though he has still battled his command with nine walks in the past two starts. Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani will be the opposing pitcher; first pitch is at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.