For a team that couldn't buy a hit during a stretch of six losses in seven games two weeks ago, the recent offensive outburst has provided immeasurable relief.
"It's nice to take a little pressure off our starters and to make so they don't have to be perfect," said first baseman Adam LaRoche, who went 1-for-3 with a two-run homer. "We hit a little bit and we afford them to be able to make a mistake and [have it] not be a game changer. I know it's helped them out a lot as far as settling in and making pitches and not having to worry about every single run. So this was big."
Nationals starter Doug Fister surrendered two earned runs on four hits in seven innings for his fourth win. However, the Phillies jumped on the right-hander early. Ben Revere doubled down the left-field line to lead off the game before Jimmy Rollins bunted him over to third on a sacrifice. Chase Utley then gave Philadelphia a 1-0 lead on a ground-ball single up the middle, scoring Revere.
Fister got out of the first without any further damage and the Nationals tied things up in the bottom half. Anthony Rendon reached on an infield single to short before LaRoche walked to put runners on first and second for Ryan Zimmerman, who was making his third start in left field since returning from injury.
Zimmerman ripped the first pitch he saw through the left side of the infield to score Rendon.
Fister settled in, allowing only two baserunners and one hit in his next five innings. The 6-foot-8-inch right-hander also made several plays to help himself during his outing. In the third, Revere ripped a ground ball up the middle just to the left of Fister, who dove and made a brilliant backhanded stab before throwing to first for the out.
"For a guy that's that tall, he's got great agility," Washington manager Matt Williams said. "He takes pride in it, works hard at it and knows that he can help himself in that regard. He's a good athlete."
Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick threw scoreless frames in the second, third and fourth, but the Nationals broke the game open in the fifth.
Denard Span, who went 1-for-4, led off the inning with a double off the right-field wall before Rendon moved him over with a sacrifice fly to deep center. Right fielder Jayson Werth then singled up the middle to score Span and give the Nationals a one-run lead. In the next at-bat, LaRoche blasted a no-doubter into the Washington bullpen to put the Nats up, 4-1. It was LaRoche's third homer in his past eight games.
LaRoche said Kendrick has thrown a combination of pitches to him in the past that has disrupted him. He had seen curveballs in 3-0 counts from Kendrick, and fastballs down the middle on 1-2 counts. But he made no mistake on this 2-2 sinker.
"I felt like it was in quite a bit," LaRoche said, "and I got the barrel to it."
The Phillies pulled within two runs when right fielder John Mayberry Jr. hit a solo shot off Fister in the seventh, but that's as close as the visitors would come.
"I'm definitely frustrated," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We haven't been able to put a game together with pitching and offense."
Right-hander Tyler Clippard replaced Fister in the eighth and closer Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth for his 12th save.
Fister has issued only two walks all season in six starts.
"He's awesome," Werth said. "You've got to love playing behind a guy like that. He works fast. He throws strikes. Not a whole lot there that you don't like."
The Nationals head out on a 10-game trip against the Padres, Giants and Cardinals. And while those teams will certainly pose a stiff test, LaRoche said the Nationals' recent prowess at driving in runs provides a solid building block for the challenge that awaits.
"It's hard if you give yourself one or two opportunities to score," LaRoche said. "But when you give yourself five or six opportunities with guys in scoring position, you're going to have some games like we've had lately."