The Washington Nationals (54-56) maintained their continual climb out of their sub-.500 hole on Saturday night, as power hitting and prime pitching helped them defeat the Milwaukee Brewers (46-64) in a 3-0 win.
Dan Haren pitched seven shutout innings for the Nats, and continued his stretch of strong starts since his return from the disabled list. He gave up only four hits and two walks, struck out six and faced the minimum three batters in three innings.
Since coming off the DL at the beginning of June, Haren’s ERA over five starts is down to 2.40. That is an immense improvement over the 6.15 ERA he punched up over his 15 previous starts, and an improvement the Nationals badly needed him to make.
Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano extended the shutout through the eighth and ninth innings. Each pitcher threw a 1-2-3 inning on 10 and 12 pitches apiece to nail down the win and earn Soriano his 28th save of the season.
On offense, Jayson Werth continued to be the fire of the Nationals’ lineup. He went 2-for-3 with two singles, which raised his batting average over his last 26 games to .424 (36-for-85).
Werth scored the Nats’ first run of the game in the second inning. He led off with a line drive to center field, and after Ian Desmond walked, Werth led a double steal. The extra 90 feet and a perfect slide allowed him to score on an Anthony Rendon sacrifice fly, which Werth celebrated with an impassioned fist pump.
The Nationals had a brief scare that left them wondering if they would have to play without Werth’s passion and towering batting average – which would be a huge blow to their often floundering offense – when he limped off the field in the fifth inning and was replaced in the sixth by Roger Bernadina.
However, in his postgame press conference, Davey Johnson said he was hopeful Werth would miss only the series finale with the Brewers with a strained groin.
Wilson Ramos and Adam LaRoche brought the power in the fifth and sixth innings, each hitting a solo home run to left centerfield.
Ramos’ was his seventh of the season and yet another manifestation of the catcher’s value to the Nationals’ offense. Since coming off the DL on July 4, Ramos is hitting .310 with five home runs and 18 RBI, which has been a badly needed jolt of electricity to a dim lineup.
LaRoche’s home run – which he hit with Werth’s bat – injected some power into a 3-for-38 skid since his last homer.
The series-clinching win was the Nationals’ fifth victory in their last seven games. If they can keep piecing together solid wins like Saturday’s, they can escape their tormenting sub-.500 trench in no time.