Quick Links

Instant analysis: Nats 10, Brewers 4


Instant analysis: Nats 10, Brewers 4

Game in a nutshell: Only one word, really, is needed to put this game in a nutshell: Domination. Gio Gonzalez dominated the Brewers lineup, allowing two unearned runs over seven standout innings to become the first 20-game winner in the majors this season. The Nationals' lineup dominated Milwaukee's pitching, busting out with three homers and 13 hits. And the bullpen closed the door on a lopsided victory, one that moves the Nats one step closer to the NL East title. For the moment, they lead the division by 6 games over the Braves (who just got underway in Philadelphia). Their magic number to clinch is also down to 6.

Hitting highlight: How impressive was the Nationals' offensive performance today? Consider this fact: Their 1-through-7 hitters successfully reached base in 20 of their first 26 plate appearances. Poor Kurt Suzuki, who went 0-for-4 as the No. 8 hitter and didn't get to join the party. Everyone else did plenty to make up for it. Adam LaRoche went 3-for-4 and came up a triple short of the cycle. Ian Desmond went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs. Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper each reached base three times. Michal Morse reached base four times. They gave old pal Livan Hernandez a beating in the bottom of the fourth, scoring six times via a pair of three-run homers. (Guess Livo will help the Nationals win a division title after all.)

Pitching highlight: Obviously, it's easy to pitch with a 9-run lead. But Gonzalez was superb from the moment he took the mound this afternoon. He needed only 48 pitches to complete four scoreless innings, throwing a whopping 34 strikes. He issued only one walk and struck out five. And the only two runs he ultimately surrendered were unearned because of Bryce Harper's misplays in center field. Ultimately, this start will be remembered for Gonzalez reaching two big milestones. He earned his 20th win, becoming the first Washington pitcher to do that since Bob Porterfield in 1953. And he recorded his 200th strikeout, becoming the first Washington pitcher to do that since ... Walter Johnson in 1916(?!). Gonzalez is still scheduled to make two more starts in the regular season. With a strong finish, he's certainly going to be a strong candidate for NL Cy Young Award honors.

Key stat: LaRoche now has 32 homers for the season (matching his career high) and 98 RBI (two shy of his career high).

Quick Links

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year

Quick Links

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.