The Nationals have now outscored opponents by 108 runs this season, the best run differential in the majors. As the season has worn on, their dominance has only grown, as if they are only now realizing how good they can be.
“We’re coming together,” said Jayson Werth, who was scratched with right ankle soreness. “It’s the time of year where good teams start to mesh, and the daily grind of spending 10 hours a day together is either wearing on you or it’s making you become a good team. Luckily for us, we’ve got a bunch of good guys and a bunch of guys who come every day, put on their spikes and go out there and play hard. The rest of the stuff takes care of itself. Just keep doing what we’re doing.”
On Monday, they smashed eight runs off Ryan Vogelsong, who had not allowed four all season, and sent him skulking off the mound with two outs in the third inning. Gio Gonzalez shut down the Giants’ previously surging offense, throwing six scoreless innings before yielding a cosmetic two-run homer in the seventh. His 15th win tied him with Livan Hernandez’s total during the 2005 season as the most for any pitcher in the team’s brief history.
An auctioneer would have trouble reading their list of offensive stars. Catcher Kurt Suzuki went 3 for 4 with a game-breaking, three-run double in the seven-run third. Danny Espinosa ripped four hits, including the game’s only homer, a missile to center field in the fifth. Roger Bernadina, playing in place of Werth, swatted three hits and notched three RBI. The Nationals’ 21 hits set a new AT&T Park record and tied their team mark. They sprinted out, and they did not relent.
“I mean, we haven’t had everyone healthy so it’s tough when everyone’s not healthy to put together our offense all the time,” Espinosa said. “Everyone lately has been in a groove.”
By the end of the night, the Nationals had ratcheted Vogelsong’s ERA from 2.27 to 2.72, which left Jordan Zimmermann, Tuesday night’s starter, with the NL lead at 2.35. The victory, combined with the Atlanta Braves’ loss to the San Diego Padres, pushed the Nationals’ edge to 5 ½ games in the National League East, a new high this season and tying their largest lead since baseball returned to Washington. Among division leaders, only the Texas Rangers enjoy a larger cushion.