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Four homers help Nats push streak to six

Solid start by Roark keeps Washington in hunt; Span's streak hits 23

NEW YORK -- It's safe to say the Nationals were home run machines during their four-game sweep of the Mets. They hit a total of 13 home runs in the series, and four of them came Thursday afternoon as Washington won, 7-2.

The Nationals have now won six consecutive games and find themselves 5 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second National League Wild Card spot. The Reds were idle on Thursday.

"Oh man, it was a lot of fun. It's [a good] way to finish up New York, sweeping [the Mets]," said manager Davey Johnson, who is retiring at the end of the season. "There were a lot of good things all around."

The Nationals were able to get on the scoreboard in the first inning against right-hander Aaron Harang, who struck out 10 batters. Ryan Zimmerman continued his home run tear by hitting his 23rd dinger on the first pitch from Harang. Zimmerman now has eight home runs in his past 10 games.

New York would tie the score at 1 against rookie Tanner Roark in the bottom of the first inning, when Eric Young Jr. scored on a double by Daniel Murphy.

The following inning, Washington would retake the lead. Thanks to instant replay, Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche was able to hit his 20th home run of the season.

With one out, LaRoche hit a ball to deep left field. Young climbed the left-field fence, but the ball went over his glove and bounced back onto the field for a double. Nationals manager Davey Johnson believed the ball hit above the orange line on top of the fence, which meant it was a home run. The play went under review, and after three minutes and 24 seconds, the umpires overturned the call and ruled that LaRoche had hit a home run to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead.

"We didn't keep the ball in the ballpark. That's tough for us to catch up when we don't hit home runs," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Everybody says, 'Well, you can hit and run.' A lot of times, all you're doing in a hit and run is sacrificing outs to advance runners in scoring position if you can, if the guy puts the ball in play. We've just got to start getting some hits."

The lead wouldn't last long for Washington, as Roark allowed an RBI single in the fourth inning to Anthony Recker, scoring Lucas Duda.

But Wilson Ramos gave the Nationals the lead for good in the top of the fifth inning, when he homered over the left-field wall. Ramos now has four home runs and 13 RBIs in his past eight games.

"I like what talent we have on this ballclub. I know the guys can hit the ball out of the park," Ramos said. "I feel good at the plate. I play every day, because I like that. I'm more consistent at the plate. So that is one of the reasons I feel better this year."

Ramos has started 20 straight games behind the plate, and he doesn't want to take a break. In fact, he wants to pass Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who played in 23 consecutive games behind the plate this season.

"I lost 2 1/2 months because of my injuries. Right now, I feel good," Ramos said. "For me, right now, I don't need a day off. I want to keep playing. I want to help the team win. Right now, we are fighting for the second Wild Card spot. So I want to keep winning, and want to help the team to make the playoffs."

Roark (6-0) worked six innings, allowing two runs on six hits. He was solid on the mound despite dealing with a 56-minute rain delay.

"I've seen him sharper," Johnson said about Roark. "It was kind of a wet day, but I thought he made pitches when he had to."

Washington would make it a two-run game with Scott Atchison on the mound, as LaRoche scored on a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rendon.

Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 23 games when he doubled to left-center field off Frank Francisco leading off the eighth inning. Span scored on a double by Zimmerman, who then came home on a fielder's choice by Ian Desmond.

The Nationals are 17-7 during Span's streak, as Span has played a big role in the Nationals being in the Wild Card chase.

"Span is the catalyst. Your leadoff guys are always the catalyst," Johnson said. "Last year, my right fielder [Jayson Werth], who is on fire now, he led off most of the year last year and he set the tone. And that is what's happening now with Span.

"[The guys] were excited that he kept the hitting streak alive. I mean, you should have seen the bench. They were yelling, whatever, so he's key. He keeps going, we are going to keep going."

Before making his fourth appearance at the plate, Span was thinking the streak might end. But after making a diving catch on a flare by Ruben Tejada, Span started to feel confident he could get a hit in his next at-bat.

"That kind of woke me up a little, and I put a good swing on a fastball," Span said.

Rendon capped the scoring with a solo shot in the ninth, his seventh of the season.

"We are getting more aggressive. That's what I was talking about earlier in the year," Johnson said. "We need to swing the bats earlier in the count. It took a long time to get there. Everybody is finally getting there."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashinNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span, Tanner Roark, Wilson Ramos