The Juice: Nationals use long ball for eighth win in nine games, say they’re finding their groove

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

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A couple days ago, Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper said "we're still in it." It doesn't matter if you or I believe him, he and his home-run hitting teammates seem to believe.

The Nats beat the Miami Marlins 9-0 on Thursday for their eighth win in nine games behind homers from Harper and Ian Desmond, plus the blast above from Jayson Werth.

The win put the Nats (68-65) three games above .500 for the first time since July 10. They're 6 1/2 games back from the NL's second wild card spot. And if you believe Thursday's starting pitcher, Gio Gonzalez, the Nats are getting things right for the stretch run.

''We're getting our groove back,'' Gonzalez said. ''I think that you can see it live, and the chemistry in here is just getting better and better. I think it's the music choice. I don't know what it is, but I think that our guys out there are having more fun up there at the plate.''

Gonzalez earned his first win in six weeks, pitching seven shutout innings and striking out eight. After the game, Harper had another proclamation:

''We're a scary team when we're going good, and I think everybody knows that,'' Harper said.

Not to rain anybody's parade here, but it should at least be pointed out that the Nats eight wins have come against the Marlins, Cubs and Royals.


Orioles 3, Red Sox 2: The Orioles avoid a three-game sweep, as pitcher Chris Tillman improves to 15-4.

Braves 3, Indians 1: Atlanta finishes sweep of Cleveland, but Justin Upton leaves the game with injury.

Mariners 3, Astros 2: Does anybody care? Yes? Oh, well then the Mariners snap a six-game losing streak.

Brewers 4, Pirates 0: Jonathan Lucroy has two RBIs, Aramis Ramirez homers and Yovani Gallardo pitches seven innings for the Brew Crew.

Tigers 7, A's 6: Torii Hunter saves the Tigers from a horrible day with his walk-off homer.

Royals 3, Twins 1: The Royals win their fifth straight behind a strong start from Bruce Chen.

Mets 11, Phillies 3: Carlos Torres, pitching in Matt Harvey's spot in the rotation, was stellar for the Mets. He took a two-hit shutout into the seventh. The Mets offense, meanwhile, helped him plenty.

Angels 2, Rays 0: Jason Vargas pitches seven shutout innings, striking out seven as the Rays take two of three from the Angels.

''Frustrating is a great word for today. It happens, and you've got to move it along and get ready for the next day. Nothing you can do about today except put your favorite collegiate jersey and get on the airplane. It's a long ride. The card game will be festive. We've got two really good bottles of wine for the trip also.''

— Rays manager Joe Maddon after his club's 2-0 loss.

Justin Upton reacts to getting hitting in the hand by a pitch. He left the game, but X-rays were negative. He's day-to-day.

The Indians released pitcher Brett Myers, whom they signed to a $7 million free-agent deal before the season. He was 0-3 with a 8.02 and hadn't pitched since April.

• The fourth-place Milwaukee Brewers, with their victory on Thursday, have won four of six games this week against in-contention NL Central foes the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds.

• Injured Rays pitcher Matt Moore pitched in a Triple-A rehab star. He allowed eight hits and four runs in four innings for the Durham Bulls.

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