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Nats' runaway win caps strong NL East stretch

Team goes 6-5 against Phillies, Mets to start year; Rendon extends hitting streaks
@paul_casella
April 11, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- The Nationals can finally take a moment to exhale following Wednesday's 15-1 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Manager Dave Martinez has already described this month as "unlike any April" he's ever seen -- and his club is just two weeks into the season, a stretch

PHILADELPHIA -- The Nationals can finally take a moment to exhale following Wednesday's 15-1 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Manager Dave Martinez has already described this month as "unlike any April" he's ever seen -- and his club is just two weeks into the season, a stretch in which the Nationals played exclusively against National League East foes in the Phillies and Mets.

“Those two teams we played are really good. They’re going to be good all year," Martinez said. "We’re going to go head-to-head with them. So to come out of the first couple weeks, after a bit of a rough start, and be 6-5 right now -- of course, we’d like to be 8-3 -- but we’ve got a long way to go. We’re playing really good.”

It's almost hard to believe that the Nationals have played only 11 games given all they've been through in 2019. Consider the fact that the season started with an Opening Day matchup against reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, and they have since faced Aaron Nola and Noah Syndergaard twice apiece.

They lost Trea Turner indefinitely to a broken right index finger, but they also had Howie Kendrick and Michael A. Taylor return from their own stints on the injured list.

Prior to Wednesday's 14-run triumph, the wins had been dramatic. There was the walk-off homer by Turner on March 31 and a walk-off walk drawn by Jake Noll just four days later.

There were bullpen meltdowns, including veteran reliever Trevor Rosenthal not recording an out in any of his first four appearances before finally pitching a full inning on Wednesday.

Oh, and of course, there was the whole "Bryce Harper returns to Washington" thing in the second series of the season.

Given all that, it's no surprise that Wednesday's 15-1 win was a welcomed treat for the Washington skipper.

“Today was a nice game," Martinez said. "There’s still so much baseball left. We joke around all the time amongst ourselves, we always say, ‘What game is this today?’ And it’s game 11. So there’s a lot of baseball left, and we’re going to enjoy all of it.”

Following an off-day on Thursday, the Nationals will return home to start a six-game homestand without an NL East opponent. Their next 12 games will come against the Pirates, Giants, Marlins and Rockies, who are a combined 16-31 this season.

The Nationals are trending in the other direction, having gone 5-2 over their last seven games, with the losses each coming by a single run. They also rattled off 24 consecutive runs against the Phillies, starting with the sixth inning in Tuesday's comeback win through the top of the ninth on Wednesday.

No player has been hotter during the recent streak than Anthony Rendon, who went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs on Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. He also has at least one extra-base hit in eight straight contests and nine of Washington's 11 games so far this season.

“I think we did pretty well. I mean 6-5 -- that’s winning," Rendon said of the Nats’ first games. "Look, it’s still early in the season. It was good to see some of these guys that we’re going to be facing more often than others. We’ll see them later on in the season, but it’s good to get some out of the way.”

Martinez, meanwhile, is focused solely on his own club, which will have two well-deserved off-days over the next five days.

“I don’t worry about the Phillies. I don’t worry about the Mets," Martinez said. "I just worry about the guys in that clubhouse right there. If we do our job, we’re going to compete."

Paul Casella is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.