WASHINGTON (AP) -- The New York Yankees are used to big crowds, used to so-called "playoff atmospheres" in the regular season. The clubhouse is stocked with players who know what it’s like to be in first place.
Those are relatively new sensations for the on-the-rise Washington Nationals, who received a lesson or two in the Yankees’ first trip to the nation’s capital in six years. New York swept the series between division leaders, capping the three-game set Sunday with another solid performance from starter Ivan Nova in a 4-1 win.
"When you’re playing as well as we are, no matter what the situation is, you feel like you’re going to get it done," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Both teams entered the series riding six-game winning streaks. The Yankees are now up to nine, their longest since May 2009. The series drew the eighth, ninth and 10th largest crowds in the 41Ž2-year history of Nationals Park, with fans in pinstripes trying to outshout the locals in red.
"I think that’s the one good thing that came this weekend," said first baseman Adam LaRoche, whose second-inning homer accounted for Washington’s lone run Sunday. "That’s about as close to a playoff atmosphere as you’re going to get. ... You get the place packed, people going crazy and obviously it draws a lot of media attention. It’ll be good for these guys, especially the young guys, to get used to
Nova (9-2) gave up seven hits and a run in an efficient, mostly trouble-free 7 2-3 innings to win his fifth straight start. He is also unbeaten in his last 15 road starts -- a streak that’s been going for more than a year. He is 12-0 away from Yankee Stadium since losing to the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim on June 3, 2011.
The offense, as usual, came from the long ball. Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano hit the 98th and 99th Yankees homers of the season -- both solo shots -- to make up for another abysmal day (0 for 12) with runners in scoring position. New York is hitting a mere .216 with men on second and third this season.
"We’re still not happy about that," said Mark Teixeira, who went 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. "I wish I could tell you the issue. We just have to be better at hitting with runners in scoring position. We can talk about offense all we want; the fact is our pitching staff is why we are here today."
Granderson homered off Edwin Jackson (3-4) in the fifth to break a 1-1 tie. Cano made it a two-run cushion in the seventh off Tom Gorzelanny.