Nationals cruise to 10-1 victory behind Gonzalez, Zimmerman

An altered pitching schedule due to the birth of his son over the weekend did nothing to throw Gio Gonzalez out of whack.

The left-hander was back on the mound tonight and dominated the Marlins just as he did nine days earlier in his near-no-hitter. This time, he tossed seven innings of one-run ball, leading the Nationals to a 10-1 victory on a night in which they did just about everything right.

Ryan Zimmerman led the Nats' offensive barrage against Miami's pitching staff with one of the best games of his career, going 4-for-4 with two homers, a double, a walk and five RBIs to become the franchise's all-time leader in that category and earn not one but two curtain calls from the crowd of 25,951.

gonzalez g pitch white tight sidebar.jpgGonzalez was making his first trip to the mound after an emotionally draining week. He carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning last Monday at Marlins Park, on the same night former Miami ace (and close friend) José Fernández would have turned 25. He then left the club later in the week and returned to Washington for the birth of his second son, Gabriel, on Sunday morning.

Manager Dusty Baker was hopeful this afternoon that the birth would serve as an emotional boost for Gonzalez. Whether it did or not, the left-hander was in peak form once again.

Despite allowing seven hits, Gonzalez came through with big pitches when he needed them most. He allowed only one hit with a runner in scoring position, continuing a season-long trend that has elevated him into one of the majors' most successful starters. Opponents are now batting a paltry .127 (13-for-102) with runners in scoring position against him, the lowest mark in the big leagues.

Gonzalez didn't need very much offensive support tonight, but he got plenty of it, with Zimmerman leading the way. Mired in a prolonged slump that dates back to mid-June, the veteran first baseman busted out in a big way.

Zimmerman launched a solo homer off an 0-2 pitch from Marlins left-hander Adam Conley in the bottom of the second. That gave him 906 RBIs in his career and established a new franchise record. (The man who previously held that record, Expos third baseman Tim Wallach, happened to be in the park tonight as Miami's bench coach.)

That blast earned Zimmerman a curtain call, but he was far from done. He doubled in a run in the third, singled in a run in the fifth, walked and scored in the sixth and then homered to right field on the 11th pitch of a prolonged at-bat in the seventh, capping his night and prompting the crowd to plead with him for another curtain call.

Zimmerman's performance stood out, but he wasn't alone tonight. Howie Kendrick, who missed Tuesday's game with a sore back, returned in style and went 3-for-4 with three RBIs to help pace the sustained attack at the plate.

Bryce Harper had two hits (one on a drag bunt) and drove in two runs. Rookie infielder Adrian Sanchez, batting second once again, had two more hits and is now 7-for-his-last-9 with two sacrifice bunts and a hit-by-pitch.

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