DENVER — Seems like it was just yesterday we were writing about what a downtrodden offensive team these Nationals were. Oh… right.
Well after their best offensive game of the Davey Johnson era and a night in which they tied the organization’s record for hits in a game (21) and broke the one for extra-base hits in a game (11) there was plenty being said in the Nationals’ clubhouse about this game as a potential breakthrough for the team.
Here are a few of the quotes and insights after the Nationals’ 12-5 victory over the Rockies:
“My hitting coach is a genius. What can I say?”
“It was really good to see the guys coming out of some slumps. That was a good night for it. Gio (Gonzalez) had a little rough night out there. He got hit pretty hard, but he battled. He hung in there and gave us a good six innings, which is great for this ballpark.”
“Even (Mark DeRosa) got off the Interstate. He got over .100. It was a good game for our guys. We needed it. The guys were maybe pressing a little bit. Tonight was very welcome.”
“Even (Bryce Harper). Harp’s been struggling as bad as I’ve ever seen him struggle. He’s a gamer, and he’s going harder and harder and harder to try to get out of it. Then he gets a little infield hit. That was good. Nice to see (Ryan Zimmerman) get his 1,000th hit. He had a great night. (Ian Desmond) had a wonderful night. It was just good all the way around.”
“I know in this ballpark, good things can happen to an offense. There was no panic. I know the fans were all panicky about how we’re hitting and all this stuff. But there’s talent here. A game like this can kind of gets things going.”
On his 1,000th hit: “Obviously it’s meaningful. Anytime you can do anything where it takes a long time in this league is meaningful. It’s something I’ll look back on, and hopefully I’ll have a lot more.
On the offense: “I think our offense has been so inconsistent all year. We’ve had some guys who have been in and out, been back, been hurt. (Michael Morse) is just now starting to come back. For us to kind of continue to grow and get better, we can use this as kind of a springboard I think.
“We had good at-bats today. We had good pitches to hit, and we hit ‘em. We took a lot of pitches that we’ve been swinging at in the past, which are more pitcher’s pitches. When you take those, and those are balls, now you’re set up to kind of hit your pitch. We did tonight. We didn’t miss them when we got the chance.
“I don’t think we were pressing. We wanted to do more. But we know we have a good offense. We knew that we have some guys that weren’t doing what we were supposed to do. We knew at some point it would come around. We have too good of a team not to score runs all year long. Lucky for us, we have a really good pitching staff that’s kind of been the backbone of this team. Hopefully as we continue to get better as an offense and continue to get healthier as an offense, we’ll be able to help them out a little bit, too.”
On giving Gio Gonzalez a cushion: “It’s very nice. There’s too many times when they’ve given up two or three and lost. We owe them a lot, to say the least.
On the night as a whole: “It was good just seeing the guys come alive. It’s always fun. It was one of those nights where you sit back and attack the strike zone, try not to be too fine or pinpoint accurate or anything like that. I think they did a great job of keep attacking, keep going out there swinging, keep putting the ball in play.”
On his go-ahead RBI-single in the fourth: “Before that at-bat, I was talking to (Stephen Strasburg). Stras was telling me, ‘Just shorten up a little bit. Don’t try to go big fly or anything like that. Just try to put it in play.’”
On how he felt more comfortable challenging hitters with a lead: “You want to continue to go out there and pound the strike zone. You don’t want to fall behind, give them a chance to start to come back. I was just trying to do my best to keep pounding. That’s what each one of the guys kept saying – continue to pound the strike zone, get us back in here as quick as possible. That’s exactly what I was trying to do.
On his first time pitching at Coors Field: “I just tried to slow it down. … When I was in the bullpen, there was three ducks standing by home plate. I was just impressed by the whole situation. We had to tell (catcher Jesus Flores) to scoot them over. It was kind of cool. That’s the one thing I’m always going to remember about Colorado. I was admiring the ducks.”
On finally playing in a blowout: “It feels great just takes the pressure off us defensively. We’ve been struggling a little bit the last couple days offensively and tonight we were able to break out of that so it was good.
“I think hitting’s mostly contagious and you know you’ve got Morse coming up with that big double. That kind of sparked us. We were up three runs and then they were able to come back and get three runs and we started to hit, got another one, it just gives us a lot more confidence and just helps us. It’s just contagious.
On his three-run homer: “He got me two strikes and I know Desi just came up with a big hit and got two runs in and then runners on second and third I’m just trying to be short and get the ball in the air a little bit. Just trying to be short and stay up the middle with it and things were able to pan out for me.”
On what LaRoche told him in the dugout: “He said something like ‘You didn’t have to show me up like that’ but he ended up hitting another one so he showed me up big time. Just great. These guys are awesome and it’s been great.
“The last couple games we had been struggling offensively. We know it’s there. We’ve got a great lineup. It’ll be here.”
On if he told Moore to stop showing him up: “I sure did. So I tried to hit another one. I don’t know that I could ever match the ball he hit. I was on third, I had a pretty good seat for that one. That was launched. But yeah, I was just messing with him a little bit. It was pretty impressive.”
On hitting both home runs to the opposite field: “You know (Monday), for whatever reason I wasn’t seeing the ball great. I went into (Tuesday) and was trying to work on some things and really trying to see it deeper, believe it or not. I was able to see it a little bit longer. I was pulling off some sliders and changeups and kind of getting out of rhythm. That was my attempt to get back in it and stay on a roll.
“Obviously two home runs are great but I’m not a guy who sees it real deep and shoots the ball the other way. I pull a lot of balls but when I get way out of whack the other way this kind of helps bring me back. Stick with that, stop chasing some pitches.”
On the importance of not allowing this outburst to be a blip on the radar: “It’s big. We’ve been waiting on this all year. We’ve known what this offense can do and just haven’t seen it. We’ve seen some signs of it. Tonight we had some situations with men on first, two outs and end up scoring two or three runs out of it. Just stringing together a bunch of hits, some home runs, Desi, Mikey big nights, Zim. It was nice to see the potential of this lineup. Build off of that. That’s not going to happen every night but it’s nice for our pitchers once in a while, especially in this park.”
On Ian Desmond’s bases-loaded double in the fifth: “It was awesome. That’s what I told him. I don’t know if it was a full count or what it was but he fought off some tough pitches, took some close pitches and then killed it. That was huge. Obviously he sparked that inning.
On his approach in the fifth: “I was up there and all I could remember was when we were in Baltimore the last game and I had a big at-bat in the game. During that at-bat I thought ‘This at-bat’s going to impact the game.’ I ended up popping up and we didn’t score a run and we ended up losing 2-1.
“So during this at-bat I was like ‘Just get the job done. Just get one of these runs in.’ I wasn’t trying to get too big. He kept on throwing me sliders, I was fouling them off. I think because I was thinking small I was able to lay off a couple pitches and I wasn’t necessarily in a two-strike approach because I still wanted to get the ball to the outfield. It worked out that I ended up getting a double. I would have taken anything as long as the run scored. I just knew we needed to keep the momentum going there. I was pretty proud of myself. Not too proud, but I was happy that I got the job done.”
On the difference a night makes: “That’s baseball. Like I said last night: One guy does something and everyone just jumps on board. Our confidence was high today and we swung the bats well. I think we were all getting kind of irritated with what we’ve been doing. The circumstances were right.”
On how nice it was to relax at the end of a game: “You can never really relax in this ballpark. I have faith in our pitching, always, but crazier things have happened in this ballpark so it was good to get the win and I was glad to see Gio kept on pounding the zone. That was very unselfish of him. He could have easily been unselfish. It was just a good team win, it was nice to get 20-something hits.”