NEW YORK — A Nationals ball club that entered the weekend with a historically deplorable record against divisional opponents marched into Citi Field and emerged with a series victory over the first-place Mets. And all it took to achieve what seemed unachievable was Patrick Corbin beating Max Scherzer, César Hernández hitting his first home in more than a calendar year and Erick Fedde earning his first victory in 16 career attempts against New York.
Strange times, indeed. But welcome times for the Nats, who followed Saturday night’s resounding victory with an identical 7-1 blowout in front of a stunned and/or booed crowd of 31,711 who couldn’t believe what had just happened here at over the past 24 hours.
What if the Nationals were 9-43 against National League East this season? They are 2-0 the last two days. What if their rotation set a modern baseball record of 43 straight starts without a win? They picked up four wins last week. What if they’ve only won six road series all year? Three of them came against the Mets, Dodgers and Braves, owners of the NL’s top three records.
“We’re getting good pitchers,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’re starting to put the ball in play. Playing good defence. The last two games were really good. I’m proud of the guys. They’re playing hard, and that’s all you can ask for.”
None of this means the Nats are about to embark on a September run against a daunting schedule loaded with opponents deep in the pennant race. But that also doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a few celebratory moments along the way, which makes this season a little more tolerable.
“We’re going to play a lot of teams that are in the hunt for the playoffs here coming up,” Fedde said. “It’s our job to play spoilers and keep playing good baseball. It’s a lot of fun to do that.”
This weekend certainly fit that bill, capped off with today’s win, which included a bit of everything, but most importantly included something no one had seen all season: a home run from Hernandez.
Signed to a $4 million deal at the start of winter after blasting 21 homers last season in Cleveland and Chicago, Hernández inexplicably went more than five months and 544 plate appearances in his tenure at the Nationals without crossing the line. close once. Truth be told, he hadn’t even come close to that several times.
But when he dug in to face a 2-2 fastball from Mets reliever Trevor Williams in the top of the fifth this afternoon, the 32-year-old infielder turned outfielder heard a sound coming from his bat that he hadn’t heard in a long time.
“Now that I’m sixth in the lineup, I think I have a different mentality at the plate,” said Hernández, who spent the first half of the season focusing more on getting to base than hitting base. the power. “I try to be more aggressive on certain courts, I just go up to bat.”
The ball headed straight for right field, landing in the second deck at about 398 feet, and Hernández had a merry trip around the bases behind Keibert Ruiz (who had just recorded one of his three singles from the daytime). Ruiz greeted him at the plate with a high-five, but when the two arrived at the dugout, the entire Nationals roster and coaching staff stood still and silent, ignoring Hernández for an extended period. before finally ending the silent treatment and harassing him. celebrating.
“I felt bad, actually,” Martinez said. “Three pitches (to the next batter), I said I had to tell him something. So I went over there and started screaming, and the team came. Man, he waited all day. year for that one, and I’m happy for him.”
“I know it’s the custom, especially when I go so long without hitting a home run,” Hernández said with a smile. “I was kind of aware that it could happen.”
Hernández’s homer capped another solid offensive game for the Nationals, which beat Mets starter Carlos Carrasco in three innings, taking an early 1-0 lead with two hitters on Lane Thomas’ brace and the simple RBI from Luis García, then adding four more. runs in the third, Ruiz and Ildemaro Vargas each delivering two-out, two-run singles to end the rally.
That provided plenty of support for Fedde, who followed up a disappointing start against the Athletics with one of his best starts of the season, holding the Mets to one run in six innings.
That single run scored in the second inning on a step, a ground ball single that somehow went through two staggered infielders and a sacrificed fly. That turned out to be the only jam Fedde faced all afternoon. Of the 101 pitches he threw, 30 came in the second inning alone, which made his other five frames pretty effective by his standards.
“Luckily the game kind of played into that,” he said. “My plan from the start was to worry about nothing but executing my throw, whether it was a lot of speed or a lot of movement. It was simple, aggressive and in the zone, and I think that led to a good game.”
It was how Fedde not only earned the fourth win for a Nationals starter in seven games, but more dramatically his first career win in 16 appearances against the Mets, 11 of those starts.
“I feel like it has a lot to do with our defense and our attack,” Fedde said of today’s long-awaited win. “They gave me a really big lead and gave me the ability to really chase the guys. On my end, it’s my job to try and get them to string together five, six hits to get back in this game, and I feel like it’s really hard to do. So I went right after the guys and put the pressure on them.