Game in a nutshell: It's not supposed to be this easy, right? Especially against the defending World Series champs, who had been playing as well as anybody in baseball until this week. Well, the Nationals have taken the Cardinals to the woodshed two nights in a row now, following up Thursday's 8-1 thumping with tonight's rout. This one was all the more impressive because much of the damage came against former 20-game winner Adam Wainwright, who was knocked out after giving up six runs in only 2 23 innings. The Nationals worked the count against the right-hander, forcing him to throw a whopping 86 pitches, and got contributions from just about everyone in their lineup. That freed up Gio Gonzalez to go right after St. Louis' hitters, which the lefty did. Gonzalez didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning and he carried a shutout into the ninth, given a standing ovation as he took the mound in search of the complete game. He pulled it off, earning his first career shutout, energizing the crowd of 29,499 and sending the Nationals to their 80th win of the season (matching last year's total) and only one shy of the club record set in 2005.
Hitting highlight: It seems like we're highlighting Jayson Werth here on an almost-nightly basis, but it's impossible to ignore what the guy is doing right now. He racked up three more hits and two more walks tonight, scoring a pair of runs. Put it all together, and Werth has now reached safely in 12 of his last 15 plate appearances. He's truly embraced the leadoff role and understands the most important thing he can do is get himself on base. And he's doing that with aplomb, setting the table for Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and everyone else behind in in the lineup. Werth's updated on-base percentage in 26 games since he returned from his broken wrist: .435. What a difference he's made.
Pitching highlight: Maybe Gonzalez just wanted to one-up Edwin Jackson. One night after the veteran right-hander tossed eight innings of one-run ball, the lefty went out and carried a shutout into the ninth. Gonzalez retired the first nine batters he faced, took a no-hitter into the fifth and got some big, double-play grounders when he needed them. Put it all together and you've got one of his best outings of the year, this one good enough to earn Gonzalez his 17th win of the season. That ties him with Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto for the major-league lead and gives Gio a real shot at 20 wins by season's end.
Key stat: Since their five-game losing streak, the Nationals have outscored the opposition 26-5.
Up next: Note the changed starting time for Saturday's game -- 4:05 p.m. because Fox picked up the broadcast -- then make sure you get here on-time to see Jordan Zimmermann seek his 10th win against 14-game winner Kyle Lohse.
Nationals (60-42) vs. Giants (59-43) at AT&T Park
The Nationals hung on two beat the Giants in the opener on Thursday night despite a finish that was anything but smooth. On Friday, they will look to win their third straight game overall with Max Scherzer (10-6, 2.92) on the mound.
Scherzer has been brilliant as of late with just four earned runs allowed across his last five starts (34.1 IP). He struck out 10 in seven innings against the Padres his last time out.
Behind Scherzer will be a new-look lineup with Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa all getting the day off. Ben Revere is in center, Clint Robinson is at first base and Wilmer Difo is in at shortstop.
They will face Jeff Samardzija (9-6, 4.22), who has allowed at least four earned runs in five of his last six starts and in seven of his last 10.
First pitch: 10:15 p.m.
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats -Max Scherzer vs. Giants - Jeff Samardzija
CF Ben Revere
RF Bryce Harper
2B Daniel Murphy
C Wilson Ramos
LF Jayson Werth
1B Clint Robinson
3B Anthony Rendon
SS Wilmer Difo
RHP Max Scherzer
CF Denard Span
LF Angel Pagan
2B Joe Panik
SS Brandon Crawford
1B Brandon Belt
3B Connor Gillaspie
RF Gregor Blanco
C Trevor Brown
RHP Jeff Samardzija
The Nationals will be without Jose Lobaton for at least a few days, as they placed the backup catcher on the disabled list Friday retroactive to July 20. Lobaton is dealing with left elbow tendinitis.
Taking his place on the roster will be catcher Pedro Severino, who was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse. This is Severino's second stint with the Nats this season.
Lobaton, 31, takes a break after holding a .194 average with one homer and three RBI through 22 games. He last played on July 19 against the Dodgers and has only appeared in four games this month.
Severino, 23, only made one appearance with the Nats when he replaced Wilson Ramos, who went on the bereavement list in late April. Severino also played two games with the Nationals last season.
Known more for his defensive abilities, Severino has a .259 average with two homers and 17 RBI in 73 games at Triple-A this season.
MASNsports.com first reported Severino's call-up.
[RELATED: Papelbon's job as Nats closer now a real question]
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The Nationals are very interested in acquiring a closer before the trade deadline on Monday.
The hang up has been — as it was with a potential deal for Aroldis Chapman — with the number of pieces they would have to give up in the process.
While keeping all of their top prospects would be ideal, a source close to the MLB's Jon Morosi believes the Nationals would be willing to trade 22-year-old RHP Lucas Giolito to the Yankees for 31-year-old closer Andrew Miller.
RELATED: WHO ARE THE NATS' TOP TRADE DEADLINE TARGETS?
The Yankees had previously insisted that they would be keeping Miller, but with the team looking to stockpile young talent for the future, a one-for-one trade would do them well. But having just dealt Chapman, the Yankees may want more in return, which the Nationals have balked at in recent talks.
But Miller would be an upgrade from the Nationals' current situation.
Jonathan Papelbon has been shaky and inconsistent as of late, and while Shawn Kelley has been capable of spot closing duties, it is clear that the team is deficient in that department. Miller only has nine saves this season, but has played second fiddle to Chapman and his blistering pitch speed. Miller has a 1.39 ERA and has struck out 77 batters this season.
Miller is a good closer, but is he worth giving up a bona fide top prospect in Lucas Giolito?
According to fellow MLB Network reporter Jon Heyman, the Yankees reportedly think it's the other way around.
One thing is for sure, the answer will become clear by the end of the weekend.
RELATED: NATS' INTERESTED IN PIRATES' ALL-STAR CLOSER