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.
If you've understandably been caught up with the Capitals and Wizards in their respective playoff series, you might not be aware of just how hot Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper is right now. Fresh off a three-game sweep of the rival Mets in New York, Harper was named National League Player of the Week.
For the whole week, Harper hit .550 (11-for-20) with four doubles, three home runs, seven RBI, seven walks and 10 runs scored.
He is now leading all of baseball in batting average (.400), he's tied for second in homers (7), and he's alone in second in RBI (20). He's also amassed a blistering 1.340 OPS through the team's first 18 games.
Harper's biggest game of the past week came in Atlanta when he went yard twice, with his second homer being a grand slam. He finished the game 4-for-4 with two homers, one double, five RBI, one walk and four runs scored.
With Harper's injuries from last season behind him (even though he won't completely admit to being hurt), the Nationals' right fielder is back to, or even better than, his 2015 form that ended with his first career MVP award. During that season Harper took home player of the week honors three times.
The Nationals as a team have the best record in baseball at 13-5, and already have a three-game lead in the NL East.
Related: MLB Power Rankings
NEW YORK -- Daniel Murphy hit an early grand slam against his former team, Max Scherzer pitched eight fiery innings and the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-3 on Sunday night for their seventh straight victory.
Ryan Zimmerman added a two-run homer for the Nationals, who completed a three-game sweep of the short-handed Mets in the first series this season between the NL East rivals.
Missing slugger Yoenis Cespedes and two other injured starters, New York (8-11) has lost four in a row and eight of nine to fall 5 1/2 games behind the Nationals, who own the best record in the majors at 13-5. The winning streak is their longest since a seven-game run last April.
Scherzer (3-1) struck out nine and walked one in his latest win over the Mets, a team he has often dominated -- especially since signing with Washington in January 2015. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, who fanned 17 in a no-hitter at Citi Field on Oct. 3, 2015, pumped his fist and slapped his glove after setting down the crucial hitters in this one.
Koda Glover got three outs for his second major league save, both in the past two days.
Michael Conforto hit his second leadoff homer of the series and had three hits for New York. Neil Walker's two-run homer pulled the Mets to 4-3 in the third, but that was all Scherzer allowed. He got a double-play grounder after Conforto's one-out single in the fifth and retired his final 10 batters.
Murphy connected in the first off Zack Wheeler (1-2), who had sharp stuff throughout his seven innings of four-hit ball. Zimmerman went deep in the eighth against reliever Josh Smoker to make it 6-3.
Murphy, booed by the Queens crowd, has eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 22 games against the Mets since they let him leave as a free agent before last season.
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