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CHC@WSH: Nationals put up six runs in the 3rd inning

WASHINGTON -- It was more of a Fourth of July celebration on Saturday than it was the previous day for the Nationals. Unlike Friday, there was an explosion of runs as the Nats pounded the Cubs, 13-0, at Nationals Park.

The Nats have recorded seven shutouts in their last 32 games, which leads the Major Leagues during that span.

Everyone in the starting nine for Washington had at least one hit in the game as the Nats tallied a season-high 19 hits to go along with a season-high 13 runs.

"Hitting is contagious," said Ryan Zimmerman, who had four hits in the game. "When everyone else is doing it, you want to jump in and do it. It's just like anything else in this game. When your teammates [are hitting], you want to kind of join the party, keep the line moving and that's what makes it a lot of fun."

Washington was scheduled to face right-hander Jeff Samardzija, but he was traded to the Athletics on Saturday, with news of the dealing coming on Friday night. Instead, the Nationals faced right-hander Carlos Villanueva and ended up scoring four runs against him.

It started in the second inning, when Zimmerman scored on single by Ian Desmond. In the following frame, the Nationals scored six runs, three of them against Villanueva. Denard Span scored all the way from first on a double by Anthony Rendon. Jayson Werth followed with a double to center field to score Rendon.

Villanueva was taken out of the game in favor of left-hander Chris Rusin, and he didn't fare any better. After Adam LaRoche reached on a fielder's choice, Zimmerman sliced a double to right field, scoring Werth.

LaRoche then scored on a wild pitch before Desmond singled to right field, scoring Zimmerman. Wilson Ramos then hit a long single to right field, scoring Desmond.

The run support proved to be plenty for left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who allowed four hits and struck out seven over eight innings. He extended his scoreless streak to 22 innings. It was his fourth start since coming off the disabled list, and he hasn't allowed a run since June 18 against the Astros.

"He stifled our offense," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Gonzalez. "He locates his fastball, works it to both sides of the plate. And his breaking ball is really good. … It's got sharp, late break, good tilt. He can use it effectively against both lefties and righties."

Asked if he was fully recovered from his shoulder problems, Gonzalez said, "I feel like the team is getting me there. With their help, catchers Ramos and Jose [Lobaton] have been doing a great job of helping me get back to where I need to be. … It's a nice win when you get seven runs off the bat. You start pulling your comfort zone right after that. You want to attack the strike zone and keep going."

Washington would give Gonzalez two additional runs in the sixth inning. Werth and LaRoche had RBI hits in the frame.

The Nationals were able to get to right-hander Justin Grimm in the seventh, scoring four runs. Rendon, Kevin Frandsen and Zimmerman collected RBI hits.

"Ever since we have everyone back, we are kind of slowly but surely getting better," Zimmerman said. "Obviously, this isn't going to happen every day, but with the type of at-bats we put together today, even when the game is out of hand, it's good to see every one grinding it out, even when it doesn't matter. Everyone finished the game strong."

With the lineup intact since Monday, the Nationals have scored seven or more runs in a game three times. It helps that the lineup is deeper, thanks to the return of Bryce Harper and Ramos.

"There are more tough guys to pitch to," Zimmerman said. "It makes [the opposing pitcher] work harder, throw more pitches. They are more prone to make mistakes the more pitches they throw."

The Nationals have won six of their last seven games and remain 1 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East.

Washington will face a tough pitcher on Sunday in right-hander Jake Arrieta, who has a 1.81 ERA this season.

"We'll enjoy [the 13 runs] for today and forget about it," Zimmerman said. "We'll face a pitcher that has been really good the last three or four times out, maybe one of the best in the league. We have a tough task ahead tomorrow. We'll enjoy this a little bit, kind of turn the page and get ready."

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