WASHINGTON -- A rainout Friday night placed a difficult challenge on the schedule for the Nationals, now tasked with two doubleheaders in four days, beginning with Saturday's against the Reds. It's especially challenging for a team trying to climb its way back into the division race, with the need to
WASHINGTON -- A rainout Friday night placed a difficult challenge on the schedule for the Nationals, now tasked with two doubleheaders in four days, beginning with Saturday's against the Reds. It's especially challenging for a team trying to climb its way back into the division race, with the need to stack up wins.
After dropping the first game Saturday at Nationals Park, the Nationals responded right away during the nightcap, hammering 10 hits in a 6-2 victory to earn a split. Matt Adams went 2-for-3 with a solo home run, Juan Soto added another multihit game to his resume and Anthony Rendon collected three hits as Washington's offense continues to shine.
"It's just good to see the team come together," Adams said. "We've been playing good baseball the last handful of games and we battled today. We wanted to get two, but we battled to get the split, and we'll come back tomorrow ready to go."
Finally healthy, the Nationals offense has started to show signs it can be one of the deepest and most elite lineups in the National League. Even though Bryce Harper needed to leave the game in the seventh after being hit below the right knee with an errant pitch, the way the offense has come alive recently has been encouraging.
"I think we're just having good at-bats, putting it all together, and the lineup is pretty deep," said Harper, who was sore after the game and not sure if he would be in the lineup Sunday. "[Ryan Zimmerman] was our seven-hole hitter last game, and when we have everybody in there, that's pretty impressive. I thought everybody swung the bat today as a whole, first and second game."
And if the Nationals can get strong starts like Jeremy Hellickson's outing in this game, they will be in good position to make a run. Hellickson gave up two runs in 5 2/3 innings, keeping the Nats in the game, unlike Giovany Gonzalez did in the Nats' 7-1 loss earlier in the day.
The Phillies also won Saturday night, so the Nationals still trail them by six games for first place in the NL East. But after dropping the first game, the Nats were able to put themselves in position to win this four-game series.
"That's the motto from here on out, just win every series and see where we're at," right-hander Ryan Madson said. "I think everybody's focused on that and feels good with that."
Both dugouts were warned in the eighth inning after batters on both sides were hit by pitches. First, Harper was hit on the right leg below the knee by an errant pitch from right-hander Austin Brice in the sixth, although Brice went up to Harper after the inning ended and apologized. Then, Reds right-hander Jesus Reyes, making his Major League debut, hit Spencer Kieboom with an errant throw to begin the seventh inning.
So when the Reds' best player, Joey Votto, stepped up to the plate with two outs in the eighth inning and was drilled on the right leg by Madson, Votto took issue. As he walked up the first-base line, he stared and yelled toward Madson and did so again while standing at first base, prompting home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher to issue a warning toward both dugouts.
After the game, Madson denied throwing at Votto intentionally, saying, "I didn't mean to hit him. Definitely didn't mean to hurt him. Nothing like that. Hopefully, he's OK."
Votto exited without speaking to reporters.
"It's been a long day for both teams, it really has," Nats manager Dave Martinez said. "Both competitive teams. We want to win, they want to win. I don't think anybody was throwing at anybody."
Soto went 2-for-4 in the nightcap, his second multihit performance of the day. He is the first teenager with multiple hits in both games of a doubleheader since Robin Yount did so in 1975, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
"For me, it's just come here and play," Soto said. "If I miss in the first one, I'm going to get them in the second one. I think like that so I have two chances to get on base and help my team."
The Nats wrap up their series with the Reds on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET with Tanner Roark on the mound. Roark, who has struggled for most of the year, hopes to build off his two most recent outings, during which he gave up one run in 15 innings with 18 strikeouts and one walk. Right-hander Luis Castillo will be the opposing pitcher for Cincy.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.