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).