Game in a nutshell: Having exorcised their demons after a five-game losing streak, the Nationals came home a relaxed and loose bunch, ready to open a season-long, 11-game homestand. Then they went out and thumped the defending World Series champions with an impressive top-to-bottom effort. Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper each homered to ignite the lineup, and Edwin Jackson took care of everything else after that. The right-hander did not allow an earned run over eight spectacular innings, striking out 10 and earning his eighth win in the process. With that lopsided victory, the Nationals improved to 28 games over .500. And with the Braves off, they extended their lead in the NL East to 5 12 games.
Hitting highlight: When they're both going well, Werth and Harper give the Nationals as potent a 1-2 punch atop their lineup as perhaps any team in baseball. They did it all tonight, with Werth reaching base three times via a walk, a single and a homer (and also driving in another run on a fielder's choice) and Harper launching his third homer in 24 hours plus drilling a two-out, RBI single in the sixth. Werth has been nothing short of remarkable since his return from a broken wrist. In 25 games now, the veteran right fielder is hitting .337 with a .408 on-base percentage and .478 slugging percentage. Not too shabby for a leadoff hitter.
Pitching highlight: Jackson would certainly have been justified if he took the mound tonight with a little added motivation. Facing the team he helped lead to a World Series title last fall (but didn't show any serious interest in re-signing him over the winter) the right-hander authored perhaps his best performance of the season. Jackson struck out three batters in the top of the first and never let up, finishing with 10 punch-outs while racking up 123 pitches over eight innings. It was a big-time start against the best-hitting lineup in the NL.
Key stat: Jackson's ninth strikeout of the night was the 1,069th by a Nationals pitcher this season. That established a new club record, besting the total set by the 2010 pitching staff over a full 162 games.
Up next: Game 2 of this four-game series features a big-time pitching matchup. Gio Gonzalez again seeks his 17th win of the season, with former 20-game winner Adam Wainwright on the mound for St. Louis at 7:05 p.m. Friday.