6/1/2014 8:00 P.M. ET
Series against Rangers signals offensive turnaround
By Daniel Popper / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- In the seven games before they opened up their Interleague series against the Rangers, the Nationals lost six times and combined for 19 runs.
In the first two games against Texas at Nationals Park, though, Washington exploded for the same total. The Nats scored nine runs on 15 hits in a 9-2 victory on Friday night, then bested that number by one on Saturday, compiling 10 runs on 12 hits -- including four home runs -- in a 10-2 thrashing.
"We talked yesterday about hitting being contagious," said first baseman Adam LaRoche, who went 2-for-3 with three RBIs in Saturday's victory. "When guys are struggling, other guys have a tendency to struggle, especially when it's the core guys. And vice-versa. When those guys are going good, it rubs off on everybody else."
That confidence boost was evident with Anthony Rendon, who entered the seventh inning of Friday's game in a 5-for-43 slump, but has gone 6-for-7 with five singles and a home run since that point.
The hit that set off this furious onslaught from the Nationals offense was Ian Desmond's three-run home run in the fourth inning Friday night. It gave Washington a 3-2 lead they never relinquished, and the team went on to score in six more innings consecutively stretching into Saturday's game.
Desmond's long ball was the Nationals' first three-run homer since April 16. On Saturday, though, LaRoche launched Washington's second three-run shot in as many games -- also in the fourth inning -- to give his team an early eight-run lead.
"It's a funny game," LaRoche said.
Zimmerman gets defensive chances in left field
WASHINGTON -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made this third straight rehab start for Class A Potomac on Sunday afternoon, his second in left field.
Zimmerman went 2-for-4 with a single and a double, along with two RBIs. Manager Matt Williams said Zimmerman had three chances in the outfield -- one of which was a fly ball -- and ran the bases effectively. Williams said Zimmerman got into a rundown and slid headfirst without any issues.
Zimmerman fractured his thumb on April 12, sliding headfirst back into second base against the Braves.
"No problems," Williams said. "No more rundowns, though."
Gio impresses in brief simulated game
WASHINGTON -- Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez (shoulder inflammation) threw a three-inning simulated game Sunday morning and reported to manager Matt Williams that he "felt great" afterward.
Williams said they would look to set Gonzalez up for a rehab start in the coming days.
Pitching coach Steve McCatty looked on from behind an L-screen in back of the mound as Gonzalez faced infielders Kevin Frandsen and Greg Dobbs and first baseman Tyler Moore. Williams, team ambassador Livan Hernandez and bullpen coach Matt LeCroy also observed Gonzalez from behind the plate.
After his first simulated inning, Gonzalez took a break and walked back into the clubhouse. He stayed on the field to rest in between his second and third simulated innings, though.
"He threw well," Frandsen said. "The ball came out nice. His changeup looked really good."
Fister's quick work fosters Nats' quality defense
WASHINGTON -- Heading into Sunday's series finale against the Rangers, the Nationals had committed 46 errors in 54 games, which is the second worst in the Major Leagues behind the Indians.
Five of those errors were committed when Doug Fister was pitching, and two came in the right-hander's first start of the season. Fister struggled in that outing, surrendering seven runs (five earned) on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings, and even made a throwing error himself in an 8-0 loss to the Athletics.
But in his four starts since that point, Fister has been tremendous. The defense behind him has also stepped up its game. Washington came out victorious in all four games -- against the Diamondbacks, Reds, Pirates and Rangers -- and Fister earned wins in three of them to improve his record to 3-1.
Manager Matt Williams said Fister's ability to work quickly and not waste time on the mound significantly aids the defense behind him, which explains how the right-hander has seemingly avoided the relatively large number of errors the team has made so far in 2014.
"He grabs the ball and goes," Williams said. "You don't have time to stand defensively. ... You're on your toes, because you expect the ball to be put in play and it's happening so quickly. "
• Center fielder Denard Span was batting .358 over the last 11 games entering Sunday, and he compiled seven extra-base hits during the stretch. He also paced the team with 11 extra-base hits -- nine doubles, a triple and a home run -- since May 1. He doubled in his first at-bat in Sunday's finale vs. Texas.
• Second baseman Danny Espinosa doubled to left-center field in his first at-bat of Saturday's 10-2 win, which marked his first hit since May 20.