Nationals finding groove with another win

David Driver, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals are running out of time -- and games -- in a frantic effort to get back into the postseason picture. But the defending National League East champions are picking the right time to play their best baseball of the season.
Gio Gonzalez posted his first win since the All-Star break, and Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond hit three-run homers as the Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 9-0 on Thursday night to sweep the three-game series.
"It feels like we are getting our groove back," Gonzalez said. "Guys are having fun out there. I have to give all of the credit to the offense."
The left-hander said he came back to his locker early in the game to change his shirt when closer Rafael Soriano gave him some advice.
"Stay back," said Gonzalez, who said Soriano told him to be aware of his arm slot.
Bryce Harper (three runs) also homered for the Nationals (68-65), who have won 14 of the last 19 and are three games above .500 for the first time since July 8. The Nationals trail the Reds by 6 1/2 games for the second wild card spot.
"We have a couple of guys seeing the ball really well right now," Desmond said.
That is not the case for Miami (49-83), which has lost four in a row and eight of nine. The Marlins have drawn 34 walks in the past 10 games, but none have scored.
"We did hit some balls hard, right at some guys, I guess, if you're trying to find a couple positives, but really, at the end of the day, we didn't pitch well tonight, we didn't hit and we got beat," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "The saving grace is we haven't played many of these games this year. We've been in most of the games and we had a couple where we just got beat. Tonight was one of those nights. We just got beat.
"It seems like right now where we're at is every time we get an opportunity to score it's with two outs and we're waiting on a two-out knock that never comes."
Harper gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead in the fourth with a two-run homer just over the fence in left field.
"I am trying to make it as simple as I can," said Harper, who has been standing up straighter in his stance. "I am just trying to have good at-bats. It is going to be fun this last month."
Werth (three hits), the top hitter in the majors since July 1, crushed a long homer to left off Tom Koehler (3-9) to give the Nationals a 5-0 lead in the sixth. Rookie Anthony Rendon added an RBI single against reliever Sam Dyson, just called up from Triple-A New Orleans, later in the inning to make it 6-0.
Desmond made it 9-0 in the seventh when he lofted a homer off Dyson to left for his 20th long ball of the season. He leads major league shortstops in extra-base hits with 55.
Gonzalez (8-6) lasted a total of 14 1/3 innings in his previous three starts, but he picked up his first win since July 10 at Philadelphia.
"He turned it up a notch," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of Gonzalez, who won 21 games last year. "He ended up pitching a good ballgame, just when we needed it. I was hoping for a laugher. Got one. Tonight was outstanding."
Gonzalez, who retired 11 in a row to end his night, gave up three hits in seven innings. He struck out eight. Tanner Roark closed out the win with two innings of one-hit ball.
Ryan Zimmerman had three hits for the Nationals and also drew a walk.
"I was glad to see Zim have a big game," Johnson said. "Werth is on fire. Now is the time. Now is the time to do it. There has been a good feeling on this club for two weeks. It is fun to watch. You never take anything for granted in this game. Strange things happen in this game. We still need to play good baseball."
NOTES: The Marlins called up Dyson after RHP Arquimedes Caminero was sent to Triple-A following Wednesday's game. Caminero gave up a game-tying homer to the first batter he faced, Werth, on Wednesday. ... Miami RHP Ryan Webb was hit in the back while stretching during the Nationals' batting practice, but he did not appear to be seriously hurt. ... Desmond, who has 18 steals, is bidding to become the third Nationals player to make the 20-20 club ... Span is hitting .388 (19-for-49) in his past 12 games.

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