The Washington Nationals took two out of three games from the Dodgers in Los Angeles during the first week of September, but lost two straight at home to the Philadelphia Phillies. Washington nonetheless maintained a comfortable six-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. Washington’s 79-61 record is currently second best in the NL, just behind the Dodgers at 80-62. 

Sept. 1-3: Offense Powers (2-1) Series over Dodgers

Ian Desmond

Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond dives for a ball hit by Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Los Angeles. Kemp was thrown out at first on the play. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Asdrubal Cabrera

Washington Nationals’ Asdrubal Cabrera hits a two-run home run during the 14th inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Washington was hot at the plate in Game One against the Dodgers on Sept. 1, piling up three home runs in a 6-4 win. Right fielder Jayson Werth, second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, and center fielder Denard Span each went the yard. Starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez lasted six innings but gave up three runs, including two runs in the fifth. Washington’s bullpen took over, with Tyler Clippard, Matt Thorton and Drew Storen each contributing in relief before closer Rafael Soriano picked up his 31st save of the season.

But the Nationals faced two-time NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw in Game Two¸ suffering a 4-1 loss on Sept. 2. The ace pitcher lasted eight innings and struck out eight batters, surpassing the 200-strikeout mark for the fifth straight season. Center fielder Bryce Harper was the only player for the Nationals to take a run from Kershaw, a solo home run in the seventh inning. Kershaw was dominant otherwise, surrendering just two other hits in the game.

Washington, however, claimed the series with an 8-5 win in Game Three on Sept. 3.  After multiple game-tying rallies pushed the game into five innings of extra play, the Nationals eventually scored three runs in the 14th inning, including a two-run homer by Cabrera, to win the game.  Starter Jordan Zimmermann lasted into the seventh inning, delivering eight strikeouts with only four hits and two runs allowed. But Soriano blew the save in the ninth inning and Washington ended up going nine deep into its bullpen before Blake Treinen eventually earned the win.

Sept. 5-6: Phillies Hand Nationals Two Straight Losses

Denard Span

Washington Nationals’ Denard Span (2) runs to first base for his 1,000th career hit during the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

After taking two of three from the NL’s best on the road, Washington stumbled at home against the lowly Philadelphia Phillies, beginning with a 9-8 loss in Game One of a three-game series on Sept. 5.  Soriano blew a save for the second straight game, wasting a strong outing by starter Stephen Strasburg. This time, Soriano’s blown save resulted in a loss as the Phillies scored two runs in the 11th inning to steal the win. Relief pitcher Craig Stammen gave up the game-deciding runs to take the loss.

Offensive issues contributed to a 3-1 loss in Game Two the following night. Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett gave the Nationals problems, lasting seven innings while allowing just six hits and one run. Nationals’ third baseman Anthony Rendon was responsible for the lone run with an RBI in the fifth inning. Starting pitcher Tanner Roark was solid for the Nationals, tossing eight strikeouts in six innings of work, but surrendering two runs in the third inning and another in the sixth inning.

Next up:
Washington will close out its series against Philly with Game Three on Sept. 7 before hosting the Atlanta Braves in a three-game series from Sept. 8 to Sept. 10. Washington then heads to New York to face the Mets in a four-game series from Sept. 11 to Sept. 14.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor