Nyjer Morgan has changed this Nationals team. The Nats acquired him and relief pitcher Sean Burnett on June 30 for outfielder Lastings Milledge and pitcher Joel Hanrahan, and since then he has hit nearly .400, provided impeccable fielding, and played perfect small-ball in the leadoff spot.
But today, it wasn't Morgan's great bunting, fantastic base-stealing, nor his brilliant fielding which won the Nats another game; it was a monster home run and three RBIs.
The pitching matchup didn't look very riveting; for the Nationals it was Collin Balester, who has been up and down from AAA Syracuse, with an 0-1 record and an ERA of 6.00. The Brewers started Carlos Villanueva, with a 2-7 record and 6.18 ERA. However, Balester was good; six innings with two earned runs, while Villanueva was chased after four innings and five runs.
The game started with a bang for the Nationals, as Nyjer Morgan crushed a leadoff home run into the second deck of Miller Park's right field stands on only the second pitch of the game.
Suffice to say that Morgan is an unlikely power source; it was his first home run in almost a month with Washington, and his third all season. The Brewers struck back in the second, as Corey Hart hit a double to left and scored on slumping shortstop J.J. Hardy's single to center.
The game wouldn't stay tied 1-1 for long, as in the fourth Adam Dunn destroyed Villanueva's 1-1 pitch into deep center, hitting it out of the stadium itself for his 26th home run of the season.
The hits kept coming after that. Josh Willingham, the next batter up and coming off his historic two-grand-slam night yesterday, singled, and was followed up by a bunt single by Willie Harris. Wil Nieves hit a pop fly into shallow right field that evaded the diving Corey Hart, scoring Willingham.
Collin Balester laid down a successful sacrifice bunt, moving Nieves and Harris to second and third, respectively. Morgan followed that up with a single to right, making the game 5-1.
The game was made 5-2 after Ryan Braun hit his 21st home run of the season, a solo shot to left center in the sixth inning. The game would stay that way until the eighth inning, when Cristian Guzman hit a three-run home run off reliever Tim Dillard, just his fifth of the season, off the top of the center field wall.
Nats reliever Ron Villone surrendered a run in the ninth, bringing the final score to 8-3. Collin Balester got the win, his first, and Villanueva got the loss, his eighth. With the win, the Nationals bring their league-worst record to 32-68, and have won four straight and six of eight.
The Brewers drop to 49-51 and four games back in the NL Central, five games behind in the wild card chase.