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."