Nationals hold on to beat Dodgers, open big series with win

Nationals hold on to beat Dodgers, open big series with win
September 1, 2014, 11:30 pm
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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Another day, another barrage of homers from the Nationals lineup.

In Monday's series opener against the Dodgers, the Nats added four more bombs to make it 14 total in their last four games. Seventeen of their last 20 runs overall have been on homers.

The first one in their 6-4 win over L.A. was a solo shot by Jayson Werth in the first inning, his 16th of the season. Asdrubal Cabrera and Denard Span then added solo homers of their own in the third inning before Span hit a two-run jack in the fifth.

The Nationals chased starter Roberto Hernandez in the fifth inning. He allowed five runs on five hits and a walk. They then added to their lead off reliever Brandon League with an RBI double by Anthony Rendon in the seventh.

While Hernandez struggled in his start, Gio Gonzalez was able to overcome an early home run allowed to Matt Kemp. Gonzalez settled in to give one of his most impressive performances of the season, especially given the time of year and opponent he was facing.

Rafael Soriano made things interesting in the ninth inning by allowing a run with two outs, but the Nats held on for the win. With the victory, the Nats are now 3-1 against the Dodgers this year, clinching at least a split in their season series.

The Nationals moved to 78-58 on the season and once again enjoy a seven-game lead in the NL East over the Braves. Atlanta was no-hit by the Phillies (four different pitchers) earlier in the day.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The Nationals got contributions up and down their lineup in this one, but it was Span who stood out the most. He notched his second career multi-homer game with a solo shot in the third inning and a two-run bomb in the fifth.

Span's first homer was on the seventh pitch of his second at-bat against Hernandez. He roped a 84 mile per hour changeup over the fence in right-center. His second home run came on Hernandez' final pitch, a sinker he deposited into the bullpen in right field.

Span now has four home runs on the season with three of them coming in the last five games. Before that stretch he had just one in his previous 136 games.

Span became the first Nats leadoff hitter to have a multi-homer game since Rick Ankiel did it back on Aug. 1, 2011.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Gio gave the Nationals a quality start for the third consecutive outing, leaving with no outs in the seventh with a 6-2 lead. He finished with a line of 6 IP, 3 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, and 4 SO on 74 pitches.

After allowing the homer to Kemp, Gonzalez found his groove and at one point retired 13 straight batters. His third earned run came in after he left the game and Drew Storen took over. Matt Williams removed him earlier than usual after Gio gave up two singles to start the seventh. That was likely due to the newfound bullpen depth Williams has after rosters expanded earlier in the day.

Gonzalez has allowed only six earned runs in his last three starts, a stretch of 19 innings. He still has a 3.89 mark on the season, but looks to be turning it on just as the Nats hit the homestretch of their pennant race.

KEY STAT: The Nats are now 14-10 against teams currently holding NL playoff spots.

UP NEXT: The Nationals and Dodgers continue their series with a 10:10 p.m. start on Tuesday night. The pitching matchup is perhaps the best we've seen all season: Doug Fister (12-5, 2.55), the Nats' best starter this season, against Clayton Kershaw (16-3, 1.73), the best pitcher in baseball.

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