The season is barely two months old, and the Washington Nationals have already been asked to adjust to a new manager, overcome a rash of injuries and jump into bounce-back mode following a poor start.
With Bryce Harper leading the way, they’ve handled every obstacle while becoming the hottest team in the big leagues.
Harper hit his NL-leading 17th home run , Mark Reynolds added a solo shot and Washington beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 Tuesday night to extend its road winning streak to nine games.
The Nationals have lost veteran Howie Kendrick for the season, are without sluggers Adam Eaton and Ryan Zimmerman and are still waiting for three-time All-Star Daniel Murphy to make his season debut.
Washington has won 20 of its past 26 games, including five in a row, since starting 11-16. The Nationals own the best road mark in the majors, and the nine-game run matches the team’s longest since the move from Montreal in 2005.
“We’ve played some pretty good ballgames as well at home as well,” rookie manager Dave Martinez said.
Short-handed or not.
“Everyone’s been stepping up, next-man mentality,” Harper said. “If we get our guys back and keep having fun, doing the things we need to, then we’ll be OK.”
Harper finished with three hits, Reynolds scored twice and 19-year-old rookie Juan Soto had his first three-hit game for the Nationals, who will seek to complete a three-game sweep of their neighboring interleague rival on Wednesday night.
Former Oriole Jeremy Hellickson (2-0) allowed two runs in five innings and Sean Doolittle worked the ninth for his 12th save in 13 tries.
Manny Machado homered for the Orioles, who have lost four in a row.
Coming off a 14-strikeout complete game against the White Sox, Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy (3-7) toiled through six innings, allowing 11 hits.
“To get us through six innings and only give up three runs, that was impressive in a lot of ways,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Bundy noted: “It seems like the whole night, I was kind of trying to minimize damage.”
Harper put the Nationals in front with a solo shot in the first inning, and Machado answered with a bases-empty drive in the bottom half. Coincidentally, both players are expected to become high-priced free agents after this season.
Asked if Machado was trying to go tit-for-tat with Harper, Showalter said, “He likes to be in those moments as opposed to shirking away from them. That’s why he’s so good; he likes to be put on that stage.”
Wilmer Difo singled in a run in the second and Reynolds’ sixth home run made it 3-1 in the fourth.
With two on and two outs in the Baltimore fifth, Adam Jones doubled to left-center. One run scored, but Jace Peterson was easily thrown out at the plate to end the uprising with Machado waiting on deck.
Nationals: Martinez said reliever Ryan Madson (pectoral muscle) is “good to go” and will join the team in Atlanta on Thursday. … Lefty reliever Mark Grace (groin) will likely make one more appearance for Double-A Harrisburg before being activated from the disabled list, Martinez said. … Eaton (ankle) is “pushing the envelope” to return from the 60-day DL, Martinez said, adding: “We’ve waited this long, we’re going to make sure that he’s 100 percent.” … Murphy (knee) went 0 for 4 with Harrisburg.
Orioles: Closer Zach Britton is finally ready to test his surgically repaired Achilles tendon in a game situation. The lefty will begin a rehabilitation assignment Wednesday, either with Triple-A Norfolk or Class A Frederick, depending on the weather. “I feel normal, no hesitation,” Britton said Tuesday. “The next step is just getting in a game, getting the adrenaline going.” … INF Danny Valencia was a late scratch so he could accompany his expecting wife to the hospital to give birth.
TAKE A SEAT
Slumping Trey Mancini was held out of the Orioles starting lineup following a 6-for-51 stretch that dropped his batting average from .275 to .235.
Nationals: Unbeaten since April 4, Max Scherzer (8-1, 2.13 ERA) seeks to win his eighth straight decision in the series finale.
Orioles: Rookie RHP David Hess (2-1, 4.15) makes his fourth career start. He blanked Tampa Bay over 6 2/3 innings last Friday.
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