Royals Bullpen Falters Again as Nationals Take Series

Anthony Rendon doubled in the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning, Brian Dozier and Victor Robles homered, and the Washington Nationals beat the Kansas City Royals 5-2 Sunday to ride a wave of momentum into the All-Star break.

Washington has won 10 of 12 to climb past Philadelphia into second place in the NL East. Since sinking to 19-31 on May 23, the Nationals have gone 28-11 and lost only one of 13 series.

Starting pitching has been a big reason for the turnaround. In extending a trend, left-hander Patrick Corbin struck out 11 and scattered five hits over seven scoreless innings.

Over the last seven games, Nationals starters have a 1.35 ERA with 65 strikeouts. It was the ninth time in the last 12 games that Washington starters allowed one run or fewer.

Corbin left with a 2-0 lead, courtesy of solo homers by Dozier and Robles, but the Royals pulled even in the eighth. After Fernando Rodney gave up a two-out RBI single to Adalberto Mondesi, Alex Gordon greeted Sean Doolittle (6-2) with a run-scoring double.

Washington emphatically answered in the bottom half against lefty Jake Diekman (0-6). Rendon’s RBI double to the gap in left-center was followed by an error and a two-run double by pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick.

Much earlier, the game developed into a pitching duel between Corbin and Jakob Junis, who ended up allowing two runs and five hits over seven innings.

Corbin struck out the first four batters he faced, fended off doubles in second and third innings and was backed by a fine fielding play in the fourth.

After Gordon and Hunter Dozier opened with singles, Cheslor Cuthbert blooped a single to center. Robles made a quick pickup and fired to home, where Yan Gomes put the tag on Gordon.