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Nats club Cubbies

Nats club Cubbies

All year they've seen their pitching staff lauded for dominant performances and lifting them to the best record in the sport. And all the while, members of the Nationals lineup have wanted to let everyone know they're perfectly capable of winning a game by themselves.

"This is something we were thinking about in spring training," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "We knew we were capable of doing it. Unfortunately, we had some injuries and some streakiness this year. But we haven't had a six, seven-game outburst like this where we go out and score 18 runs. It's nice. We owe the starting pitchers for what they did the first couple months."

Consider the favor returned after Tuesday night's offensive explosion against a beleaguered Cubs pitching staff. Behind 19 hits -- six of them homers -- the Nationals muscled their way to an 11-5 victory that felt even more lopsided.

They're 31 games over .500 again, matching their high-water mark of the year. They've scored at least eight runs in five of their last seven games. And coupled with the Braves' 6-0 loss to the Rockies, the Nationals found themselves at night's end owning a season-high, 7 12-game lead over Atlanta with 27 left on the schedule.

Is this really the same team that one week ago was stuck in a five-game losing streak, with doubts starting to creep in for the first time all summer?

"I think we laughed it off the day we won," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "I think teams run into stretches like that, and hopefully that's the last one that we have. The team that we have, we understand that we're capable of winning any ballgame. It's nice to see that we're playing up to our potential again."

They're playing up to their potential thanks to a potent offense that suddenly has more dangerous hitters than available slots on the lineup card.

Six different Nationals have now hit 12 or more homers this season (LaRoche, Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper and Michael Morse). Leadoff man Jayson Werth is hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage. Four reserves are hitting .279 or better (Roger Bernadina, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy. Moore has eight homers in only 136 at-bats.

Thanks to Tuesday's explosion, the Nationals now rank third in the NL with 151 home runs and 254 doubles and fourth with a .261 team batting average.

"Everybody in our lineup's capable of going out of the ballpark," manager Davey Johnson said. "We're in a pretty good place right now offensively. We've been kind of building to it."

The beneficiary of all that support on Tuesday was Edwin Jackson, who wasn't his absolute sharpest (four runs allowed in 5 23 innings) but was good enough (eight strikeouts, including five in a row at one point) to earn his ninth victory.

"There's definitely nobody in the clubhouse that's going to complain about run support," the right-hander said. "It just shows you what this team is capable of doing."

That this all occurred as the Braves were getting shut out by Colorado's suspect pitching staff only added to the wacky tone of the entire evening. Though they've tried to avoid paying too much attention to their lone remaining challenger in the NL East, the Nationals can't help but notice the out-of-town scoreboard in right field.

"Lately, yes," LaRoche said. "When you start seeing the number of games you need to win and they need to lose, you start peeking up there. Again, it's not going to change what we do. But we've got a chance to do something, so of course you do."

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Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store

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Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others