So much for the collapse.
The offense continued its torrid pace, aided by a scorching-hot Bryce Harper, and Gio Gonzalez pitched a masterful complete game shutout, allowing only five hits, as the Nationals (80-51) asserted their dominance over the defending champions for a second straight night, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 10-0 and maintaining their MLB-best record.
Tonight’s game was the second in a critical four-game series against the Cardinals, who led the NL in run differential coming into tonight (but now are second to the Nationals in that category by 17 runs) but only held a slim half-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates for the NL’s second wild card spot. Thus far in the series, the Nationals have firmly responded to those who thought they were breaking under the pressure of a pennant race, scoring eight or more runs in three consecutive games after averaging only two runs per game during their five-game losing streak. The Nationals have also made a statement to the rest of baseball, proving that they can handle contending teams while moving their lead over Atlanta to six games (pending the result of Atlanta’s game tonight).
Gonzalez (W, 17-7) pulled back into a tie for the league lead in wins after throwing his second complete game of the season and his first career shutout. He threw 120 pitches, by virtue of his three walks and five hits allowed, but he was able to induce three double plays as well. He struck out eight and lowered his ERA to 3.10, good for 12th in the NL.
The Nats’ offense struck early and often. After two runs in the bottom of the first, the Nats drove Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright from the game after 2.2 IP with four singles from five batters after Ryan Zimmerman was at third and Adam LaRoche at first with one out, scoring four runs in the bottom of the third. Harper stayed hot with a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the fifth to push the lead to 8-0. He is now 6-14 with three homers and eight RBI in his past three games. Zimmerman put the icing on the cake in the top of the ninth, hitting his 17th home run of the season for the game’s final score, putting the Nats up 10-0. Every Nats starting position player had at least one hit, run, and RBI except Michael Morse, who was 0-5.
Champ of the Game: Gio, who had his best career start tonight.
For St. Louis, uh… Jon Jay was 2-3? They all had bad nights.
Chump of the Game: Morse, as the only Nat without any hits, runs, or RBI.
Wainwright clearly wins for the Cardinals, for getting lit up early and putting a heavy burden on the bullpen.
Unsung Hero: Jayson Werth was 3-3 with two walks, three runs, and an RBI. He is 7-12 with three RBI and a homer in his last three games out of the leadoff spot.
Mitchell Boggs threw one scoreless inning for St. Louis. He was one of four Cardinals to record at least three outs, and the only to not allow any baserunners.
Next Game: Tomorrow in Washington, 4:05 PM. Zimmermann (9-8, 2.63) v. Lohse (14-2, 2.64)