The Washington Nationals have been on a bit of a tear lately, having won four of their last six. However, those four wins came against admittedly poor teams, the injury-crippled Mets and the offensively-challenged Padres.
So when the Nats traveled to Milwaukee Monday to face the hard-hitting Brew Crew no one really knew what to expect. Craig Stammen, who has established himself as a good No. 2 starter behind John Lannan, was going up to face veteran journeyman Jeff Suppan, who was a less-than-awe-inspiring 5-7 with a 4.71 ERA.
Neither pitcher lasted more than five and one third innings; Stammen, coming after a fine start against the Mets where he went 7 1/3 innings with one earned run, lasted only four and two-thirds while giving up five earned. One the other side of the pitching matchup, Suppan was absolutely shelled for ten earned in five and a third.
The Brew Crew came out swinging; in the first inning Ryan Braun doubled, reached third on a wild pitch and scored on a Prince Fielder double, and in the second Corey Hart homered to left. Suppan got himself in trouble in the first few innings but managed to escape; this was not so in the fifth.
Spark plug center fielder Nyjer Morgan singled home Alberto Gonzalez to make the score 2-1, and after a single by Cristian Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman got hit by a Suppan pitch, scored on a bases-loaded walk to Adam Dunn. Two batters later, Josh Willingham, nicknamed "Mr. Solo" by the Nationals announcers due to his propensity for solo homers, came through with a grand slam to give the Nats a 6-2 lead.
Milwaukee would strike back in the bottom half of the inning; Jason Kendall scored on a infield single by former Nat Felipe Lopez, and Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer to center, making it 6-5 Nats.
But just when it seemed like Milwaukee was back in the game, the Nats came back with seven runs in the sixth; Cristian Guzman hit a two-run double and scored on an Adam Dunn ground-rule double.
Finally, as the icing on the cake, Willingham crushed yet another grand slam. With that, Willingham became the thirteenth man to hit two grand slams in a Major League game, and the first since Boston's Bill Mueller in 2003.
Willingham had eight RBI, tying the franchise record accomplished last by Tim Wallach in 1990. In one game, Willingham had doubled his career total of grand slams, the first two coming as a member of the Florida Marlins.
The Brewers scored a run in the bottom half of the inning on a Jody Gerut double, and Ryan Zimmerman hit his 18th home run of the season in the eighth, bringing the final score to 14-6.
Those 14 runs were the most scored by the Nats this season, passing the mark of 13 set just two days ago against the Padres. As Stammen was one out short of being eligible to pick up the win, Jason Bergmann got the win pitching one and a third innings out of the bullpen, bringing his season record to 1-1. Suppan would get the loss, bringing his record to 5-8.
With the win, the Nats have won three straight and improved their league-worst record to 31-68; with their loss, the Brewers fall under .500 to 49-50 and drop to 3.5 games back in the NL Central, and five games out of the lead in the wild card chase.