Postgame analysis of the Nats' 11-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
How it happened: All season long, despite their first-place record, many said - the players and manager Dusty Baker included - that the Nationals had yet to hit their stride on offense. Despite the fortune of good health and a Ted Williams-esque run by Daniel Murphy, the pieces had yet to fully fall in place.
Well, what about now? The Nationals scored 11 runs on Wednesday in a blowout victory at the Chicago White Sox, their third straight game with 10 or more runs. The Nats have been a good team all season, but lately they've looked like lions among tabby cats.
Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew all homered. Ben Revere, Bryce Harper, Werth, and Espinosa all had three-hit games. Everyone in the Nats lineup reached base at least once. And Max Scherzer dominated with seven shutout innings.
The Nationals scored at least 10 runs in three consecutive games for just the second time in team history (June 26-28, 2012). Their 18 hits on Wednesday were a season-high.
Things got so bad for Chicago that outfielder J.B. Shuck pitched the top of the ninth. He allowed one run, but did get Harper to ground out. The White Sox' four runs were scored in the ninth inning off relievers Shawn Kelley and Oliver Perez.
It was a complete effort for the Nationals in a win that moved them to 36-23 on the season and a season-high 13 games over .500.
What it means: The Nats have a chance for their sixth sweep of the season on Thursday in Chicago. They are now 9-2 against the AL Central this year and winners of seven of their last nine overall. At 36-23, the Nats are on the same pace as the 2012 club that won 98 games. Both the 2014 and 2015 Nats needed 69 games to get win No. 36.
Shields' disastrous debut: It's not often you see a big-time trade acquisition booed by the home crowd in his season debut with a new team. But that's where starter James Shields found himself on Wednesday in his first outing since joining the White Sox in a deal with the Padres.
Shields was an absolute trainwreck from the very beginning with four runs allowed in the first. He gave up two more in the second and was charged with another run in the third after he exited following a leadoff single to Anthony Rendon. All in all, Shields gave up seven earned runs on eight hits, two walks and three homers. This is following a terrible outing in his last appearance for San Diego. Shields has given up 17 earned runs in 4 2/3 innings across his last two starts. That's just hard to look at.
Zimmerman stays hot: Zimmerman put in his second straight good game since returning from the paternity list on Tuesday. In Wednesday's win, Zimmerman clubbed his ninth homer of the season, a two-run bomb in the first inning. Over his last seven games, Zimmerman is 11-for-28 (.393) with three homers, seven RBI and seven runs scored.
Espinosa and Drew go yard: Trea Turner may be the future, but the Nationals' middle infield depth was on display Wednesday night with big hits from Espinosa and Drew, who started at second base with Daniel Murphy as the designated hitter. Espinosa's homer gave him nine on the season, which ties him for fourth among MLB shortstops. He's on pace for 25 bombs this season. For Drew, it was his fourth homer of the year and his third in his last 12 games, a span of 22 at-bats. The Nats now lead the NL with 81 homers as a team this season.
Scherzer carves in Chicago: It's not often a pitching performance this impressive gets overshadowed, but it's hard not to focus on the runs when the Nats score 11 of them. Scherzer, though, did his part on Wednesday with seven shutout innings with five hits and one walk allowed. It wasn't flashy like some of Scherzer's other starts, but he was effective and didn't let up all night despite the safety of a massive lead.
Up next: The Nationals will look for a sweep of the White Sox on Thursday night in the final game of their 11-day road trip. The finale will be Gonzalez vs. Gonzalez. For the Nats, it will be Gio Gonzalez (3-4, 3.94) looking to bounce back from three straight awful outings. For the White Sox, it will be right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 3.93).