If you thought the Nationals would hit fewer homers without slugger Bryce Harper, you were wrong.
Last year, the Nationals slammed 191 homers in 162 games — or 1.18 per game. This season, they are averaging 1.31 per contest in the first 65 outings.
The Nationals hit a record-tying four in a row Sunday at San Diego in a 5-2 win and that gave them 85 on the season. While that total ranks just ninth in the homer-happy National League, the Nationals have several players who are doing deep at a better rate than high-priced All-Star Harper.
Harper had 11 homers in 243 at-bats through Sunday for the Philadelphia Phillies, the team he signed a 13-year deal with prior to this season after playing in Washington since 2012.
Going into Monday night’s game at the Chicago White Sox, the Nationals (30-35) had five players with at least nine homers: Anthony Rendon (12 in just 185 at-bats), Howie Kendrick (11 in 156), Brian Dozier (10 in 200), Juan Soto (10 in 205) and Victor Robles, who had nine longballs in 217 trips.
Even first baseman Matt Adams, who has spent time on the injured list, had six homers in just 111 at-bats while right fielder Adam Eaton had six in the same number of at-bats as Harper.
Kendrick, Trea Turner, Eaton, and Rendon all went yard Sunday against San Diego reliever Craig Stammen, who was drafted by the Nationals in 2005. Last year, Stammen gave up just three homers to 1,167 batters while with the Padres.
“I liked the first one, for sure. That put us ahead,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “And then it was wow … wow … and wow.”
The four homers were just further evidence of the home run explosion this year in Major League Baseball.
MLB saw 1,135 homers in May — the most in any month in history. The single-season record is 6,105 in 2017 when 1.26 per game left the yard.
There were 5,585 regular-season homers in 4,862 MLB games last season, or 1.15 per game. The All-Star game in Washington in July had a record 10.
In the first 1,948 contests this year there have been 2,611 longballs — or 1.34 per contest.
The Nationals, who came to D.C. in 2005, became the first franchise in history to hit four homers in a row on more than one occasion.
The other time took place on July 27, 2017, at home with Milwaukee as Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, Harper and Ryan Zimmerman hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers in a 15-2 victory.
All four homers came in a span of nine pitches against Michael Blazek, now a pitcher in the Nationals farm system with Triple-A Fresno.
Goodwin now plays for the Angels, Difo is also at Fresno and Zimmerman has been on the injured list since April 28 with plantar fasciitis and doesn’t appear to be ready anytime soon.
Meanwhile, Zimmerman’s teammates, like just about everyone else in baseball, keep swinging for the fences.