James Wagner of the Washington Post chronicles what it’s like when you combine a team that wins a boatload of games and some veterans with senses of humor:
The Nationals carry the best record in baseball on the field, but they’re also a vibrant and jovial group of players off it. They smile and laugh in the dugout, the bullpen and behind the scenes — enlivened by winning. But few of the players have ever been in a pennant race, and the light-hearted tone set by veterans is as important now as ever.
The article describes most of the stuff you’ve heard about from happy clubhouses before: pranks, jokes, icy-hot in jockstraps, etc. Still, it’s all new in Washington.
How you can tell when the Nationals have really arrived, however? When they do this stuff all year, win 100 games and then have bad luck in the playoffs, after which some bitter tabloid columnist writes the “maybe the Nats should have been more serious” column like you’d see in New York or Boston.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.