CHICAGO - On nights like this, when he is handed a comfortable lead and can actually take a few moments to watch his own teammates hit, Max Scherzer can't help but be impressed by what he sees.
Then again, what wasn't to like about the Nationals' 11-4 thumping of a shell-shocked James Shields and the rest of the White Sox?
"Man, one through nine we did a great job against Shields tonight," Scherzer said. "All the guys were just fouling off pitches, and any time there was a mistake, they hammered it. ... Really from a one-through-nine standpoint, everybody showed up. That's what puts a smile on everyone's face."
The Nationals are smiling a lot these days, because they're producing at the plate the way they felt all along they could. It may have taken two months, but at last the entire lineup is coming together in a manner that suggests this team could score a lot of runs on a nightly basis.
In fact, they've now scored 10 or more runs in three straight games, matching a club record established during the 2012 run to the National League East title.
Might this finally be a true reflection of this lineup's collective ability?
"I hope so," manager Dusty Baker said. "We've just got to keep it going and not worry about what we did yesterday. Just memorize it and try to figure out how to do that on a daily basis. You know you're not going to score that many runs every day, but you've got to take them when you get them."
On this night, the Nationals took full advantage of Shields, whose White Sox debut turned into an absolute nightmare. The veteran right-hander, acquired from the Padres over the weekend, needed a staggering 84 pitches to make it through two innings plus one batter. He was down 4-0 in the top of the first, at one point served up three homers in a span of four batters and departed in the top of the third to resounding boos from the U.S. Cellular Field crowd of 15,273.
"He wasn't sharp," Baker said. "That was the main thing. He's not called 'Big Game James' for nothing. This guy's a good pitcher. And I'm sure the White Sox are going to be very happy that they got him, because there were a lot of teams that were coveting him from San Diego. We just happened to get the runs we got."
The Nationals got them thanks to contributions from everyone who stepped to the plate. Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Stephen Drew and Danny Espinosa all homered. Werth, Espinosa, Ben Revere and Bryce Harper all recorded three hits. Only 16 plate appearances into the game, all nine starters had either notched a hit or driven in a run.
"This could be a dangerous lineup," said Revere, who is now inching closer to the Mendoza line after a sluggish start. "I know we got a few guys in there trying to feel out there swings - I'm one of them - but it's just when every single body gets on the same page, we're going to be a fun team to watch."
And nobody enjoys watching it than the guy on the mound who receives all the run support. Even if it does add a bit of an unconventional challenge to his outing.
"The human reaction is to ease off and relax, because you're going up big and you feel like it's so easy to win now," Scherzer said. "But it's just the opposite. You've got to mentally tighten it up even more and go out there and stay hungry. Because it can happen in a heartbeat where ... hit, hit and then a three-run bomb and you're frustrated with your outing. I've pitched in these games before when you get a lot of run support. You really enjoy it, but it's more of a mental challenge at that point."
Scherzer hasn't been too fazed by the challenge. He's now 15-0 when the Nationals provide him with at least four runs of support.