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Instant analysis: Nats 9, Cubs 1


Instant analysis: Nats 9, Cubs 1

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).

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Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

HOUSTON -- Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer, Howie Kendrick had a two-run triple and the Washington Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time, 4-3 Tuesday night in a matchup of division leaders.

Washington's winning streak over the Astros dates to 2012. The Nationals have won 13 of 14 against Houston since 2011.

Kendrick's triple tied it in the third before the Astros went back on top with an RBI single by Josh Reddick in the bottom half. Anthony Rendon doubled with two outs in the fourth before the homer by Wieters, which landed just to the right of straightaway center field, gave the NL East leaders a 4-3 lead.

Tanner Roark (10-8) allowed six hits and two earned runs in 5 2-3 innings and Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Charlie Morton (10-6) gave up four runs in six innings for the AL West-leading Astros.

The Astros threatened in the eighth against Brandon Kintzler when Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles and the Nationals intentionally walked Carlos Beltran with one out to load the bases. But Max Stassi grounded into a double play to leave Houston trailing.

George Springer led off the Houston first with a single, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Reddick.

Beltran doubled off the wall in left-center field in the second and scored on a single by Derek Fisher.

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Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

When Max Scherzer was a teenager, he didn't know that one day he'd actually become a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He had no guarantee he'd make it to the majors, much less play in five consecutive MLB All-Star games. 

All he knew was that he had the option to go pro as a kid or go to college, and back then, the Nationals' ace needed a contingency plan in case baseball didn't work out. Fortunately for Scherzer, it did, but he doesn't regret going to college at the University of Missouri, telling Santana Moss on CSN's "Route 89" going to school was a no-brainer.

"It was actually a really easy decision," Scherzer told Moss. "When you get drafted out of high school, you're going to be going into the minor leagues, and that can take three to five or six years — multiple years — in the minor leagues, and you're forfeiting your right to further your education."

Scherzer was drafted in the 43rd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, but he opted to play for Mizzou for three years, which turned out to be a great decision. The Arizona Diamondbacks then drafted him in 2006 in the first round as the 11th overall pick. 

"A lot of times when you sign out of high school, you don't make it to the major leagues," Scherzer continued. "So I realize that your education — that's your safety net.

"You need to further your education in college, and if you do get drafted out of college, you're in a much better position to try to chase your dreams because if it doesn't work out, you still have one year left of school and that's much easier to obtain rather than try to go through four years when you're not coming out of high school."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound