Game in a nutshell: Wait, did someone hit the pause button at the end of last night's game and just pick things up right there tonight? This sure felt like what we saw only 24 hours ago, with the Nationals ransacking the Cubs' suspect pitching staff in record fashion. They once again clubbed six home runs, two of them via Bryce Harper, one apiece from Roger Bernadina, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. That provided more than enough run support for Gio Gonzalez, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth and wound up with seven more scoreless innings to his name. Thus the Nationals won for the seventh time in their last eight games, improving to a season-best 32 games over .500 and maintaining their 7 12-game lead over the Braves in the NL East.
Hitting highlight: Look out, the 19-year-old is starting to heat up again. Harper started looking good at the plate about three weeks ago, and he's only looking better with each passing day. Tonight, he twice pounced on the first pitch he saw (once from Chris Volstad, once from Michael Bowden) and drove the ball over the fence (once into the left field bullpen, once over the right field bullpen). Over his last 18 games, Harper is now hitting .333 (22-for-66) with four doubles, a triple and seven homers. And his 17 home runs are now the third-most ever hit by a teenager, trailing only Tony Conigliaro (24) and Mel Ott (19).
Pitching highlight: The offensive explosion might have been the story at the end of the night, but for five innings, Gonzalez was front and center. The left-hander allowed only one batter to reach safely during that time: Josh Vitters, who benefited from Desmond's throwing error in the third. Gio's shot at history, though, ended when Darwin Barney lined the first pitch of the sixth inning past a diving Ryan Zimmerman for the Cubs' first hit of the game. He wound up allowing three hits over seven innings but didn't allow a run, extending his scoreless innings streak to 16. Over that span, he's got 17 strikeouts. And he's now got 18 wins, tied with R.A. Dickey for the MLB lead. He's the first Washington pitcher to record 18 wins since the Senators' Bob Porterfield won 22 games in 1953.
Key stat: The Nationals are only the third team since 1918 to hit six home runs in back-to-back games. The others: the 1996 Dodgers and 2003 Angels.
Up next: The series concludes at 7:05 p.m. Thursday when Jordan Zimmermann takes the mound in search of his 10th win. He'll face Cubs right-hander Justin Germano (2-5, 6.30 ERA).
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history.
Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him.
During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.
In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons.
Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store
Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract.
On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.
Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop.
It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series.
Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster.
Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.
The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda.
There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.
MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others