It had been 80 games since the Nationals last had their full lineup together and healthy, the group Mike Rizzo assembled for this season before injuries struck almost immediately on Opening Day. Half a season where the Nats patched together lineup cards just hoping to stay afloat in the NL East.
On Monday, Bryce Harper returned as the final piece, and the results were a dramatic reminder of what they are capable of. Washington topped the Rockies 7-3, including a five-run outburst in the sixth inning. All eight Nats position players reached base and five of them batted runs in.
Top to bottom, the Nationals looked once again like the team many predicted to go deep into October before the season began.
"It's a strong lineup. I don't think there's too many opposing pitchers out there that want to see it," Ian Desmond said. "It was nice to have Bryce back. He brings a lot of energy to our team when he plays this way."
"I think having such a deep lineup is huge," Harper said. "One through eight, pick your poison because you're gonna get a guy that can hit the ball out of the ballpark or hit a double."
Sure, the Nationals were playing the Rockies, owners of the worst pitching staff in baseball and, at 8-20, the worst record in the month of June. And, sure, it was only one game. But on the rare day the Nationals can field their lineup as it was drawn up to be, it may not matter who the opponent is.
Harper chipped in with an RBI single, a walk and a run in his first game back since April 25 to help provide a spark. Ryan Zimmerman had three hits, including two doubles and an RBI. Adam LaRoche hit a towering solo shot to the upper deck in right field in the seventh inning, his 12th home run of the season.
Desmond, though, was the true standout with a bases clearing double in the bottom of the sixth. With Jayson Werth on third and Zimmerman on second, Rockies pitcher Rob Scahill intentionally walked Harper to load the bases with one out before Desmond stepped to the plate. Little did he know, Desmond was 5-for-5 with the bases loaded this season prior to Monday night.
Desmond took the first pitch from Scahill down the left field line, scoring three runs and giving the Nats a four-run lead. Rockies manager Walt Weiss gambled to face Desmond and lost, a perfect example of the problems the Nats' lineup can propose.
"That’s the kind of decision-making and pressure we want to apply," Williams said.
"Bryce is a very good hitter. He’d come through earlier in the game against a lefty for a base hit and an RBI. Those are the decisions that you have to make in that regard. Again, it takes Desi putting a good swing on it. When it works like that, it’s great for us. With that length in the lineup, then we have opportunity to do that sometimes."