After struggling recently with runners in scoring position, the Washington Nationals came through in a big way in Friday's series opener against the Texas Rangers.
They're hoping that success helps them bring a more relaxed approach to the batter's box as they seek a second straight win for the first time in two weeks Saturday.
The Nationals (26-27) won for the second time in eight games with Friday night's 9-2 victory. They tallied 15 hits for the second straight contest, but unlike Wednesday's 8-5 loss to Miami, they capitalized with runners in scoring position. Washington was 4 for 12 after going 7 for 55 and stranding 64 runners in its previous seven games.
Perhaps the Nationals, who scored more than five runs for just the fourth time in 25 games, will find themselves pressing less at the plate.
"When we're rolling, there's a lot less pressure in those situations. You're not as concerned about it," first baseman Adam LaRoche told the team's official website. "You know we're going to have more opportunities. You know that if you don't get it done, the guy behind you will get it done.
"When you're not, when you're up there at the plate knowing that this may be our only opportunity to score, it absolutely makes it tougher."
Ian Desmond hit a three-run homer, while Jayson Werth had three hits and is 8 for 20 over his last four games.
Washington might need another big performance with Doug Fister (2-1, 3.42 ERA) on the mound, given his struggles against Texas. Fister defeated the Rangers the last time he saw them, yielding two runs over six innings in a 7-2 victory with Detroit on July 12, but he was 2-4 with a 6.00 ERA in his first eight matchups.
Since giving up five earned runs over 4 1-3 innings in his season debut May 9, Fister has a 1.86 ERA in three outings.
Adrian Beltre, batting .432 over his last 11 games after going 3 for 4 on Friday, is 8 for 20 off Fister. Alex Rios, who is 10 for 19 against the right-hander, had a 12-game hitting streak snapped in the opener.
The Rangers (28-27) had won seven of nine prior to Friday's defeat and allowed 10 runs over their previous four.
''Just because the offense wasn't going for a while doesn't mean that (the Nationals) don't have offense,'' manager Ron Washington said. ''Any given night, anything can happen, and tonight they swung the bats."
The Rangers hope Nick Tepesch (2-0, 2.95) can continue to improve after recording the first consecutive wins of his career. The right-hander allowed two runs over 6 2-3 innings of a 7-2 victory at Minnesota on Monday.
"He's shown these three starts what he's capable of doing," Washington said of Tepesch, who was recalled from Triple-A on May 14. "But you can't hang your hat on a couple of outings. If he's around here healthy, he's going to get many outings. I just want him to be consistent."
Tepesch was 0-1 with a 5.93 ERA in three interleague starts as a rookie last season.