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Blowout win carries Nats into September

Blowout win carries Nats into September

Chants of "Let's go Gio!" as the ninth inning began. A Gatorade shower and shaving cream pie to the face that came moments later. Thumping music in the clubhouse after another lopsided victory. And then applause from those remaining players watching the Braves blow a ninth-inning lead to the Phillies.

These are the sights and sounds of a pennant race, and Washington is smack-dab in the middle of one right now.

A 10-0 whitewashing of the Cardinals Friday night gave the Nationals as many wins as they posted in all of 2011 -- one shy of the club record -- with 31 games still to play. Atlanta's meltdown shortly after extended Washington's lead to 6 12 games and lowered the magic number for the NL East title to 25.

"We have a long ways to go, and we haven't done anything yet," Ryan Zimmerman cautioned. "But what we have done is give this city a baseball team to cheer for, and they've wanted that for a long time."

Zimmerman and others have insisted for five months it was too early to focus on the standings, too early to consider themselves in a pennant race. Hate to break it to you, Ryan, but September has arrived and your team is humming along, playing as well as anyone in the majors.

Sure, there was that minor bump in the road earlier in the week, that five-game losing streak that left many around town wondering whether it was time to panic. Then Davey Johnson closed the clubhouse door in Miami before Wednesday's game, rallied the troops with an upbeat, positive speech and all they've done since is terrorize whatever poor opponent had the misfortune of sitting in the other dugout.

In three games since that meeting, the Nationals have outscored the Marlins and Cardinals 24-5 and put to rest any doubts that may have been creeping up during the losing streak.

"That's what a great manager does," Gio Gonzalez said. "A great manager sees a little glitch in the system, he fixes it up and gets us back going. That little speech he had for us was one of a kind."

Perhaps nobody took the message more to heart than Gonzalez, who suffered one of the losses during that streak but returned Friday night with perhaps his most dominant performance of the season. Scattering four singles, a double and two walks, the left-hander notched the first shutout of his big-league career, finishing this one off on his 119th pitch of the evening.

And he did it with one notable distraction in his field of vision: His mother.

Yes, seated right behind the plate was Yoly Gonzalez, cheering on her son throughout his milestone performance and yelling at St. Louis' batters and Washington's fielders alike.

"I was like: 'Oh god, somebody's got to keep her quiet over there,'" Gio Gonzalez said.

In the end, Yoli joined the rest of the 29,499 in attendance in chanting "Let's go Gio!" during the top of the ninth, then rejoicing as he got Shane Robinson to loft a fly ball to center field for the final out.

Standing on the mound, Gonzalez heard it all.

"Man, it was just one of those things were you can't explain it," he said. "It felt like it was a boost of energy, kind of like having a Red Bull right there in the ninth."

Not that the Nationals needed much of a boost the way they stormed out of the gates and took out Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright in staggering fashion. The former 20-game winner faced only 20 batters over 2 23 innings. Twelve of them safely reached base.

Everyone in the Nationals' lineup other than Michael Morse both recorded a hit and scored a run.

"We're having good at-bats, and everybody's hitting in good situations and everybody's coming up clutch," said rookie Bryce Harper, who had a pair of singles and drove in two runs. "When one guy hits, everybody hits. That's the biggest thing. Everybody's going up there with confidence."

Not a bad mindset to have as the calendar shifts to September and D.C. experiences the final month of its first pennant race in three generations.

Even if a few players are still trying not to get caught up in the hysteria.

"There's a long way to go," Zimmerman said yet again. There'll be a long way to go until there's not any way to go. That's the way we're looking at it. We're not taking anything for granted. We're not satisfied with what we've done. We've put ourselves in a good position, and I think if we can take anything out of what we've done, that's all we can take."

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Nationals lose game and Adam Eaton on the same night

Nationals lose game and Adam Eaton on the same night

WASHINGTON -- Josh Edgin relieved Mets closer Jeurys Familia with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and got Bryce Harper to hit into a game-ending double play, finishing a 7-5 victory over the Washington Nationals on Friday night that stopped New York's six-game losing streak.

New York had lost 10 of 11 and put star slugger Yoenis Cespedes on the disabled list before the game with a strained hamstring. Travis d'Arnaud then homered twice and had five RBIs for the Mets, who were clinging to a two-run lead when they brought in Familia.

Matt Wieters singled leading off, and Adam Lind's single sent pinch runner Joe Ross to third. Adam Eaton followed with an infield single to shortstop and injured his left ankle as he stepped on first base. Eaton needed to be helped off the field and was replaced by pinch runner Chris Heisey.

Unfortunately for Eaton, he awkwardly tagged the front of the bag twisting his left ankle on the infield single. 

Needing help to get off the field, the injury does not bode well for the Nationals early into their season. 

Familia struck out Trea Turner, and Mets manager Terry Collins brought in Edgin, a left-hander, to face the left-handed-hitting Harper.

Harper hit a one-hopper to Edgin, who threw home for a forceout, and d'Arnaud threw to first for the double play, giving Edgin his second big league save and first since 2013.

D'Arnaud hit a two-run homer in the second and a three-run drive in the fourth off Max Scherzer (3-2), who lasted six innings.

Jacob deGrom (1-1) struck out 12 in his third consecutive double-digit strikeout game and the 13th of his career.

Ryan Zimmerman homered twice for the Nationals, who had won 10 of their previous 11. Zimmerman tied Andre Dawson for second on the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals franchise list with 225.

After giving up two home runs in the second, deGrom (1-1) encountered little trouble during the rest of his seven-inning stint. The right-hander retired 15 of the last 19 batters he faced, including nine via strikeout.

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Nationals set franchise record for runs in an inning, blow out Rockies

Nationals set franchise record for runs in an inning, blow out Rockies

DENVER -- Bryce Harper hit a three-run homer as part of an 11-run seventh inning, Trea Turner enjoyed another big game at Coors Field and the Washington Nationals routed the Colorado Rockies 16-5 on Thursday.

Turner proved to be a pitcher's nightmare throughout the four-game series. He hit for the cycle on Tuesday, finished a triple shy of another cycle Wednesday and added a double and two singles in the finale -- in all, he had nine extra-base hits, scored 10 runs and had 11 RBIs.

Washington finished 9-1 on its road trip, taking three of the last four at Colorado. What's more, the Nationals scored 11 or more runs in three straight games for the first time since July 1986 at Atlanta, when the team was the Montreal Expos.

Leading 4-2, the Nationals broke the game open in the seventh by sending 15 batters to the plate and pounding out eight hits, including Harper's eighth homer.

Gonzalez (3-0) scattered seven hits over 6 2/3 innings to improve to 4-0 all-time against Colorado. He also had a good day at the plate with two RBIs, including a bases-loaded walk in the big seventh.

Rockies rookie Antonio Senzatela (3-1) couldn't find his typical command in surrendering four runs over six innings.

Turner, who came off the disabled list less than a week ago, made himself at home.

"This ballpark, for whatever reason, feels pretty comfortable to me," the second-year player said. "It's fun hitting here."

His teammates felt the same way as every starter had a hit Thursday.

Before the game, Rockies manager Bud Black said he was going to talk to Senzatela about not walking the pitcher, which he termed a "bad sin." Both Tyler Chatwood and German Marquez did just that the previous two games, paving the way to costly innings.

Senzatela didn't walk the pitcher, but reliever Carlos Estevez did in the seventh.

The damaging play, though, was earlier in the inning, when first baseman Mark Reynolds fielded Harper's grounder and instead of stepping on the bag, threw home to get the runner he figured was breaking for home. Only, the runner wasn't going and the throw wound up in the dugout.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg was reinstated from the paternity list after the birth of his second daughter. Strasburg is scheduled to throw Saturday against the New York Mets.

Rockies: OF Gerardo Parra made a leaping catch in the sixth just before hitting the wall. Parra was shaking his right hand, but stayed in the game.

RESTING SLUGGERS

Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman and Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez didn't start. Both had planned rest days, although manager Dusty Baker struggled with the decision with Zimmerman.

"It's hard to rest him because he's hot," Baker said.

THIS & THAT

OF Charlie Blackmon had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. ... 3B Nolan Arenado hit a solo homer in the first -- about the only mistake Gonzalez made all afternoon.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (3-1, 1.95 ERA) starts Friday when the Nationals open a three-game series against the New York Mets. Scherzer has 55 strikeouts in his last five games against the Mets, who will throw RHP Jacob deGrom (0-1).

Rockies: LHP Kyle Freeland (2-1, 3.32 ERA) starts Friday at Arizona. The Diamondbacks will throw LHP Robbie Ray (2-0, 3.42).

Related: Nationals place Koda Glover on Disabled List