Gio aids own cause as Nats roll past Phils

Gio aids own cause as Nats roll past Phils

Gio aids own cause as Nats roll past Phils
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals continue to show that they are going to be tough foes in the Nationals League East. On Saturday afternoon, left-hander Gio Gonzalez had another solid outing, helping the Nationals defeat the Phillies, 7-1, in front of 39,496 at Nationals Park.

The Nationals are now on a four-game winning streak, improving their record to an NL-best 18-9.

"I think all we are doing is that we are re-affirming that we can play with [the Phillies]," manager Davey Johnson said. "They are shorthanded, we are shorthanded, probably moreso than them, but we can still compete with them. I think that is a good message to send."

Gonzalez pitched seven innings and allowed one run on four hits. The one run was scored in the fourth inning, when Shane Victorino scored on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Ruiz.

"He located pretty good," Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence said. "He obviously has good stuff to have had the success he's had. I had some pitches to hit that I just fouled off. That's baseball. I took a good pass at him, got him one time, he pitched out of it. He has that stuff to get out of jams."

The lead for Philadelphia didn't last long, however, for the Nats scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning against right-hander Vance Worley.

Gonzalez got the inning started by working a nine-pitch at-bat against Worley, which resulted in a leadoff double. Later in the frame, with runners on first and second and two outs, Jayson Werth gave Washington the lead with a three-run home run.

"I tried my best to get on base and let the real hitters go out there and swing the bat," said Gonzalez.

From an individual standpoint, the hit by Werth was needed because he was in a 5-for-31 (.161) slump entering Saturday's action. Friday may have been his worst game during that span, as he went 0-for-5 and left five runners on base.

"It has been a little frustrating lately," Werth said. "I've had some opportunities. I haven't come through, so getting the hit there was good."

Manager Davey Johnson felt that Werth may have put too much pressure on himself in Friday's game, especially because he was playing against the Phillies, the team Werth played for from 2007 to 2010.

"He probably puts more pressure on himself because he is going up against his old mates," Johnson said. "He has a lot of pride. That was big for him and this team."

Werth said he didn't have feelings either way when it comes to hitting the home run against his former team.

"We are playing good baseball, and we just want to keep that going," Werth said. "The Phillies are banged up, we're banged up as well, so it's a pretty even playing field. They are the reigning NL East champs the last few years. Any time you can get a game from them, it's good from that standpoint."

Three batters after Werth's homer, Rick Ankiel doubled near the right-field line, scoring Chad Tracy and giving Washington a three-run lead.

The Nationals added to their lead the following inning, when Ian Desmond hit an 0-1 pitch over the center-field fence for his fourth home run of the season.

Tracy then showed why Davey Johnson wanted to overhaul his bench this past offseason. Filling in for the injured Adam LaRoche at first base, Tracy clubbed a two-run homer over the right-center-field wall to give Washington a six-run cushion.

Tracy, who went 3-for-4 in the game, wasn't the only person from the normal bench corps to have a good day. Stephen Lombardozzi went 3-for-4, and the Nationals finished with a season-high three homers and 15 hits.

"Yeah, I think they have a lot of confidence," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "They have guys hitting who weren't hitting when we came in here. They have Lombardozzi, Tracy and Ankiel. All of a sudden they get hot. The last two days, they've been crushing us."

The Nationals have a chance to sweep the three-game series Sunday night in front of a national audience on ESPN.

"It's going to be fun for everyone to see a team from Washington," Johnson said. "It's at the top of the division and playing the [NL East] champions. I would have interest in that, even if I wasn't in baseball. So it should be exciting. I don't have to give any motivational speeches tomorrow night."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.