WASHINGTON — According to multiple sources familiar with the Washington Nationals‘ current situation, the team does not need to trade for any more hitters.
Those multiples sources are the thousands of local area campers who attended Nats Park on Camp Day, then proceeded to watch as the home team doled out souvenir after souvenir — after souvenir after souvenir after souvenir after souvenir after souvenir after souvenir.
Dusty Baker’s first-place Nationals banged out eight home runs during their 15-2 rout of the Brewers, tying a franchise record set by the 1978 Montreal Expos. The carnage featured a whiplash-inducing third inning in which Washington went back-to-back-to-back-to-back. The four straight homers — off the bats of Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, Bryce Harper, and Ryan Zimmerman — tied a big-league record, most recently accomplished in 2010 by the Diamondbacks (also against the Brewers).
But wait, there’s more.
After Daniel Murphy had the nerve to not homer (he flied out to center for the first out of the inning), a sin for which the Camp Day crowd of 32,000-plus booed him facetiously, Anthony Rendon launched a solo shot of his own. Rendon’s blast gave Washington five home runs in the inning, tying another MLB record that was last accomplished by — wait for it — the Brewers in 2006. (Extra credit nugget: According to ESPN Stats & Info, of the six times that a team has hit five homers in an inning, four have come against the Reds.)
But wait, there’s more.
All five homers in that fateful bottom of the third came off of poor Milwaukee starter Michael Blazek. Even before the first pitch, the 28-year-old righty seemed like one of those old “Star Trek” characters they used to introduce at the beginning of an episode for the express purpose of killing them off at some point within the hour. You know, the ones who always wore the red shirts. Anyway, that was Blazek. A former 35th-round pick, he was making the first start of his career after 108 relief appearances. As if that weren’t enough, he was matched up against reigning Cy Young Max Scherzer, as well as a Nationals offense that had just woken up from a one and two-thirds game slumber by exploding for seven runs and batting around in its final at-bat on Wednesday night.
Naturally, on Thursday afternoon, Blazek became the first pitcher in major-league history to serve up five gopher balls in one inning. Not that Blazek should feel all that bad. After all, the nuclear Nats offense has made a habit of bludgeoning opposing pitchers this season.
As for Thursday’s prolific power play, it was a not-so-subtle reminder that, for all the deadline drama surrounding the pitching staff (see: Stephen Strasburg‘s nerve impingement; see also: bullpen), said offense is just fine, thank you very much. In fact, it’s more than fine. Despite being without Adam Eaton for the past three months, Jayson Werth for the past two months, Trea Turner for the past month, and Michael A. Taylor for the past three weeks, the Nationals lead the NL in scoring, average, OPS, and home runs. The four guys in the heart of their order (Harper, Zimmerman, Murphy, and Rendon) all rank among the top 10 in batting and slugging. To put it in technical baseball terms, the Nationals are good at hitting. Like, really good.
“What a team we have,” said Harper, who went deep twice and extended his hitting streak to 19 games, a career-high that has him tied for the longest streak in the majors this season. “What a lineup we have.”
Washington’s attack is so stacked that it can even steal focus from Scherzer, who has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball this year.
“What a birthday gift,” said Scherzer, who turned 33 on Thursday and celebrated by getting more run support than he’s gotten in more than four years. He also reached base three times (single, two walks) and tossed six innings of three-hit ball with nine punchouts. “The guys showed up today and put an ungodly amount of runs up there.” If you’re counting at home, it was the 18th time this season that Washington has scored double-digit runs in a game, the most in the majors.
“We got a lineup that could possibly do some special things,” said Harper. “With the guys we have in this lineup right now, anything can happen.”
And on Thursday, it did.