After the Nationals put four first-inning runs on the board in Thursday’s win over the Phillies, manager Dave Martinez was optimistic.
“It’s only one game,” Martinez said at the time. “But hopefully, we do it [again] tomorrow.”
The Nats carried that game plan with them on their cross-country flight to Phoenix. In Friday’s series opener against Arizona, Washington broke out with six runs in the first frame en route to a 17-2 victory.
The Nationals made their intentions clear from the start when Trea Turner led off the game with a Statcast-projected 443-foot home run off D-backs right-hander Riley Smith. Washington sent 10 batters to the plate in the first, one of three innings in which it batted around.
It was the Nats’ biggest first inning since they plated seven runs in the opening frame of a memorable 25-4 win over the Mets on July 31, 2018. The Nationals have now scored four or more runs in the first in back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 18-19, 2019, against the Brewers and Pirates, respectively.
“The guys had good at-bats today,” Martinez said. “The key was we stayed on the ball, we hit the ball all over the field today -- which was really nice -- and we took our walks.”
Washington’s 22-hit performance was highlighted by Yan Gomes, who collected a career-high five hits and finished a home run shy of the cycle. Martinez noticed Gomes was using the entire field and getting ready early in his at-bats.
“It was just one of those days, seeing the ball well,” said Gomes, who put in pregame work with hitting coach Kevin Long. “It’s one of those things where you work and the results come in. That’s nice.”
Ten Washington players produced hits, which included homers from Kyle Schwarber (3-for-4, two RBIs) and Andrew Stevenson (2-for-3, three RBIs). Josh Bell also continued his offensive turnaround with a trio of RBIs.
Meanwhile, right-hander Max Scherzer did his part to keep the D-backs’ offense at bay. In spite of battling a “really, really bad” sore throat -- “I always knew you used your teeth to throw fastballs, I didn’t realize how much you used your throat,” he noted -- Scherzer didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning.
Scherzer completed five scoreless frames with two hits allowed, one walk and seven strikeouts. Martinez made the call to the bullpen after Scherzer threw 85 pitches (55 strikes) to both preserve Scherzer’s arm and to give him a break while feeling under the weather.
“Our pitching staff, they’re going to give us a good chance to win every time,” Gomes said. “Giving them a couple of runs in the first, especially with the lineup that we have, we definitely have the ability of doing that. Getting the momentum going on our side and then just letting our pitchers go to work, it’s definitely a huge advantage that we do have, especially with the top of the lineup that we have.”
The Nationals have tallied 22 runs over their past two games after scoring nine total runs over their previous four games. They improved to 6-9 away from Nationals Park as they opened a seven-game road trip against the D-backs and Cubs.
“I can’t say we’re going to be putting up 17 runs every game, but having one of those games shows top to bottom the kind of lineup that we have,” Gomes said. “[Getting out and scoring early are] some of the things that we always try to do, and getting it done today was definitely a good sign.”