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Blowout win is cathartic for Nats

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Blowout win is cathartic for Nats

It seems like an odd notion, given the manner in which they've stormed out to the top of the NL East through the season's first month, but the Nationals really needed to do today exactly what they did.

Seven innings of one-run ball from Gio Gonzalez? Check.

A rare offensive explosion, ignited by Jayson Werth's first home run and RBI in nine days? Double-check.

And a blowout victory over the Phillies, dealing yet another blow to the five-time kings of the division and their legion of fans who attempted to invade South Capitol Street yet again? Triple-check.

Perhaps one word best describes today's 7-1 thumping at Nationals Park: Catharsis.

After battling their way through nothing but tense nailbiters on a nightly basis, after failing to capitalize on countless scoring opportunities, after playing pinata to the Phillies' 34-ounce Louisville Slugger and watching their ballpark overtaken by fans from the north, it felt like the Nationals exorcised all their demons over the course of 2 hours and 27 minutes of domination.

"It feels like they have a chip on their shoulder," Philadelphia right fielder Hunter Pence said.

Ya think? After getting stomped on by their division rivals for years and after holding little stature around the baseball world, the Nationals have finally arrived. And they want everyone to know it.

"We're going to come out and keep doing what we're doing, hopefully, and I think everyone will recognize we're for real," first baseman Chad Tracy said. "We know it. Now it's just a matter of everybody else figuring it out."

The Phillies have certainly figured it out over the last 24 hours. In losing the first two games of this series, they've been outscored 11-4 and outhit 29-11.

The domination extends farther back, though, because this actually was the Nationals' seventh consecutive win over Philadelphia, their 11th win in their last 13 head-to-head meetings.

Check out the NL East standings at this moment. In first place, at 18-9: the Washington Nationals. Tied for last place, at 13-15, the Philadelphia Phillies.

"I felt like the ballclub we were bringing to the ballpark last year when we went into Philly, that we could play with them," manager Davey Johnson said. "I think all we're doing right now is reaffirming that we can play with them. They're shorthanded. We're shorthanded, probably more so than them. But we can still compete with them, and I think that's a good message to send."

The Nationals sent all kinds of messages during this rare, lopsided victory. Their rotation again solidified its current standing as the best quintet in baseball, with Gonzalez scattering four doubles over seven sparkling innings and lowering his ERA to 1.72 in the process.

That the left-hander did this on the heels of Friday night's 11-inning marathon, with his bullpen needing a breather, only added to the significance.

"Catcher Wilson Ramos was thinking ahead of me," Gonzalez said. "He was thinking nine. And I was just like: 'One step at a time. Let me go out there and try to pound the strike zone and see what happens.' You can't think that far ahead with this lineup. All I was trying to do was match them and try to stay with Worley."

Gonzalez more than matched Phillies right-hander Vance Worley, who was pounded for five runs and 11 hits over six innings, one of those Gonzalez's leadoff double in the fifth. That surprise blast to right-center set the stage for Werth, who belted a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence for a three-run homer.

Werth's blast drew a roar from the crowd of 39,496 and brought some relief to the right fielder, who had previously stranded seven runners on base in this series against his former team.

"I was a little frustrated," Werth said. "I got some opportunities, but I havent come through. So to get the hit there, it was good."

The Nationals weren't finished, by any means. Ian Desmond clubbed a solo homer to center off Worley in the sixth. Tracy then added a two-run shot, his second home run in as many days, off left-hander Joe Savery to complete the explosion.

Members of Washington's rotation have often talked about the manner in which they feed off each other's performances. Does the same apply to a lineup?

"No doubt about it," Tracy said. "You see that guy in front of you go deep, and it just lets you know that this guy's stuff is not that good today. He's going to make mistakes. It pushes each other."

By the time Ryan Mattheus got Ty Wigginton to ground into a game-ending double play, a loose Nationals squad celebrated in the middle of the diamond with a near-full house cheering on, while a suddenly downtrodden Phillies club (and its fans) sulked away trying to figure out what just happened.

Yes, it's only two games out of 162. But come September, these two teams might just look back on this weekend as a turning point, as the weekend when the Nationals not only took back their ballpark but finally took out the guys who have bullied them for too many years.

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Trey Turner ties franchise record of stolen bases in single game with Nats 6-1 win over Cubs

Trey Turner ties franchise record of stolen bases in single game with Nats 6-1 win over Cubs

WASHINGTON -- Neither of the past two NL Cy Young Award winners had his best stuff, though Max Scherzer handled things much better than Jake Arrieta.

Scherzer allowed one run and two hits as the Washington Nationals knocked Arrieta out in the fifth inning on the way to a 6-1 victory Tuesday night. While Arrieta was slow to the plate and allowed seven stolen bases, Scherzer (9-5) threw a strong six innings, striking out six with no walks and retiring 16 of the final 17 batters he faced.

"I didn't really have great fastball command tonight, but I was able to use my offspeed to kind of collect outs when I needed to and I didn't walk anybody," said Scherzer, who allowed an earned run in the first inning for the first time since April but was in command the rest of the night. "When we needed shutdown innings we got them."

Arrieta (7-6), on the other hand, struggled with his control as he issued a season-high six walks and allowed five earned runs, getting the hook two batters into the fifth inning. The 2015 Cy Young winner hadn't walked more than three batters in a game this season.

Manager Joe Maddon quipped that the Cubs "let the wrong guys on base," but catcher Miguel Montero blamed Arrieta for all the steals.

"The reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate," a visibly frustrated Montero said. "It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn't give me any time."

Four of the Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise record seven steals came from speedy shortstop Trea Turner, who Arrieta called a "factor" any time he's on.

"I don't care who is behind the plate," Arrieta said. "He's a threat."

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Washington manager Dusty Baker said the team knew Arrieta was a pitcher to run on, and the result was a lot of small ball for a team accustomed to driving in runs with power. Washington center fielder Michael Taylor went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, and Scherzer washed out the RBI triple he allowed to Kris Bryant in the first by driving in a run with an infield single off Arrieta's glove in the fourth.

When Scherzer was lifted after 93 pitches through six with a comfortable 6-1 lead, the Nationals' beleaguered bullpen got three clean innings of relief from Enny Romero, Blake Treinen, Oliver Perez and Matt Albers.

Trey Turner tied the franchise record with four steals in a game, repeating his own feat from two weeks ago. He had a chance in the eighth to break the record and move within one of the most in a game in the modern era of baseball but did not try with Bryce Harper up and a five-run lead.

"I don't think I was held, but I didn't know if I was supposed to go," said Turner, who has 32 stolen bases this season.

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Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wade Davis struck out batting leader Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end Washington's ninth-inning rally, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Nationals 5-4 Monday night.

In jeopardy of being shut out for the first time this season, the NL East-leading Nationals scored four times in the ninth. Their comeback began against Hector Rondon and continued when Davis entered.

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With Washington down 5-3, Bryce Harper's single loaded the bases with two outs. Davis threw a wild pitch that scored a run before striking out a swinging Zimmerman, who's hitting .344. The final pitch bounced, and catcher Willson Contreras zipped a low throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to close out the victory.

Contreras hit a leadoff home run in his first career game-opening at-bat and Eddie Butler (4-2) worked five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs ahead.