NEW YORK | Early last century, the Chicago White Sox were nicknamed “The Hitless Wonders” for using any means necessary to get on base.
This weekend, the Washington Nationals were mostly “The Scoreless Wonders,” a team with World Series aspirations that couldn’t buy a run even if Macy’s was selling them for half price.
But the defending division champions broke through in a big way Sunday, scoring eight runs in the top of the eighth and six in the ninth for a 15-0 laugher over the host New York Mets.
“Just scoring one run was kind of nice,” manager Dave Martinez said.
The Nationals had been blanked in their previous three games, including the first two games against the lowly Mets. No Washington team had been shut out three straight games since the club came to the nation’s capital in 2005.
Washington went 32 innings without a run before scoring in the sixth inning on Sunday.
“I ran back into the dugout and I said: ‘We did it, boys!’ At that point, you’ve kind of got to make a little bit of a joke out of it,” Trea Turner said. “It’s just nice to get on the board.”
“I think everybody knew it was coming,” said Bryce Harper, who was 2-for-2 off the bench. “It’s a good possibility to score runs with the team that we have and the lineup that we have.”
The one-sided win was tempered by the injury to reliever Kelvin Herrera, who hurt his left foot fielding a grounder in the bottom of the ninth. Koda Glover came on to get the last out.
“He went to get X-rays,” Martinez said. “Killed the buzz.”
“It is tough,” said Washington first baseman Mark Reynolds, who came off the bench to hit a grand slam. “We definitely need that guy. It is unfortunate.”
Besides the bats finally coming alive, another bright spot was rookie pitcher Jefry Rodriguez’s best starting performance of the season. He gave up no runs and two hits in a career-high six innings.
Rodriguez, who turned 25 last month, had never pitched above the high Single-A level until this season. The Dominican native had gone five innings in four of his five starts for Washington.
“I started pounding the zone a little bit better,” he said.
Sunday, he threw a career-high 97 pitches, posting his first big league win on the road. He relied on an improving change-up as the Mets were held to three hits by five Washington pitchers.
“I have been throwing (the change-up) good,” Rodriguez said. “I am comfortable with it. In the major leagues that is what it is all about — making adjustments. I feel good now; I am more comfortable throwing it.
“(Martinez) has confidence in me so I felt good.”
Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton had four hits, third baseman Anthony Rendon had three, and Turner and second baseman Wilmer Difo each had two hits. Difo, Eaton and Reynolds also homered.
It was still mostly a lost weekend for the Nationals, who lost two of three. The previous weekend, the Nationals lost two of three games at home to the last-place Marlins.
Washington entered Sunday 8½ games back of first-place Atlanta and 5½ games behind second-place Philadelphia.
The Nationals went 2-5 on their previous road trip to Chicago and St. Louis. And two days after that sojourn ended, the team traded veteran hitters Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams to the Cubs and Cardinals, respectively.
For the Nationals to end the season 10 games over .500, they would have to win 21 of their last 31 games. Four teams ahead of them in the wild-card race had records 13 games over .500 or better before Sunday’s action.
NOTES: The Nationals entered Sunday 13-23 against lefties and 13-21 in one-run games … The Nationals begin a three-game series Monday in Philadelphia as right-hander Stephen Strasburg (6-7, 4.23) is slated to face the Phillies’ Zach Eflin (9-4, 3.93).
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