CHICAGO - They played the full nine innings at U.S. Cellular Field tonight, but that was merely to preserve the integrity of the official major league ballgame. There is no mercy rule at this level, even if the Nationals and White Sox happily would have agreed to one, probably after three innings.
With an onslaught of offense against a woefully ineffective James Shields in his Chicago debut, the Nationals jumped out to a seven-run lead and never looked back, cruising to a 11-4 victory that felt even more lopsided than that.
Shields, acquired by the White Sox over the weekend from the Padres, was a wreck from the time he took the mound. The Nationals scored four runs off the veteran right-hander in the top of the first, then added two more in the second and another in the third before he departed to a chorus of boos from the crowd of 15,273.
Max Scherzer, on the other hand, retired the first nine batters he faced and coasted through a stress-free evening. Afforded the luxury of going right after Chicago's hitters thanks to the large lead, Scherzer wound up tossing seven scoreless innings, scattering five hits and a walk while striking out six.
Not that any of this was a surprise. This was the 18th time the Nationals have scored at least four runs in one of Scherzer's starts since he joined the club last season. His record in those games is now 15-0.
By the time Anthony Rendon singled to lead off the third, every member of the Nationals lineup either had recorded a hit or an RBI, and Shields had an early trip to the clubhouse, his pitch count an astounding 84.
Everything after that was merely required procedure, with both clubs playing out the string until the game was complete. Jayson Werth's three-run homer in the top of the eighth did ensure a bit of history: The Nationals have now scored 10 runs in three consecutive games for only the second time in the club's 12 seasons (the 2012 squad did it as well).
It was 11-0 until the bottom of the ninth, when the White Sox scored four times.
The Nationals will go for the sweep, and a 7-2 road trip, Thursday night with left-hander Gio Gonzalez facing former Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez.