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Nats are in a groove, and showing off moves

@jessicacamerato
August 5, 2020

WASHINGTON -- There didn’t need to be fans in the stands for cheers to erupt at Nationals Park. The crowd, on Tuesday night, was Nats players bursting with celebration from inside and around the dugout as they hit their way to a 5-3 win over the Mets. “With the stadium

WASHINGTON -- There didn’t need to be fans in the stands for cheers to erupt at Nationals Park. The crowd, on Tuesday night, was Nats players bursting with celebration from inside and around the dugout as they hit their way to a 5-3 win over the Mets.

“With the stadium being so quiet, that's all you can hear is the guys in the dugout, celebrating and pounding on stuff,” Howie Kendrick said.

Box score

Four days since its last game, Washington returned to the field with a vengeance. Kendrick started the offensive parade in the first inning when he smacked a Statcast-estimated 414-foot home run off a changeup from Steven Matz into left field at 102.8 mph.

“As hitters, sometimes we get ahead of ourselves and we don't give ourselves the opportunities to see some pitches,” Kendrick said. “Right there, he just made a mistake with a changeup. Most of the time, 3-2 counts, now you don't really get those fastballs like you used to. You just try to be patient, and hopefully it works out for you. Tonight, it was just one of those nights that it worked out for me.”

The veteran infielder shook off all signs of the upper-back stiffness that had sidelined him for the last two games when he danced his way through the dugout and planted himself down on the bench for his well-known “clutch and drive” routine with Adam Eaton.

“Any time we're driving, I say we're having good ballgames,” Kendrick said. “It was great, because the last time we did it was in the World Series. It's something that we definitely enjoy doing and hopefully we'll be doing a lot more of it.”

His plan in his first game back was to work the counts. With that objective in mind, he went a perfect 4-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Kendrick is batting .300 in his 15th Major League season.

“This was perfect for him to go out there and do what he did and show that he’s really OK,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We need him in the lineup, whenever we can.”

While Kendrick’s home run prowess is part of Nats history, Josh Harrison introduced his hitting skills to his new teammates. In only his second game since signing with the Nationals on July 27, Harrison -- who started in left field in place of Juan Soto -- sent a sinker from Matz 406 feet to left-center field at 102.7 mph. Both home runs had an expected batting average of .910, per Baseball Savant.

Harrison stayed hot on his feet to steal his first base of the season in the fifth inning. He finished the night 1-for-3 with two RBIs. This early momentum is significant for Harrison, whose 2019 season with the Tigers was cut short after 36 games because of injuries.

“More than anything, when you come to a new team, you just want to be able to contribute and help win,” Harrison said. “That was one swing of the bat where I was able to add a little something to the lineup.”

As Harrison crossed the plate to begin his first home run celebration, he was greeted by Soto, who was dancing atop the dugout. Once down the steps, Harrison broke out some moves of his own. His dance of choice: the Milly rock.

“I was part of the banging when other people hit the home run, but this time, it was time for me to dance,” he said. “It was pretty cool. It was also like my welcome to the team.”

Martinez encouraged his players to “loosen up and just have some fun” after starting the season 1-4. Since then, they are 3-0.

“That's who these guys are,” Martinez said. “They're a bunch of guys that pull for each other. They love each other, want everybody to do well. When things are going well, they're a bunch that wants to have fun.”

Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.