GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals were not part of Friday's blockbuster trade between the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A's. They benefitted all the same.
Rather than face nasty pitches from scheduled starter and now left-coaster Jeff Samardzija, Washington took on spot starter Carlos Villanueva. Took him and the Cubs relievers on they did. The Nationals scored one in the second inning and then hammered Villanueva and Chicago's bullpen during a six-run third. Additional bludgeoning followed.
Factor in Gio Gonzalez' latest dominant performance and the appreciate crowd of 38,473 at Nationals Park - including Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III - could simply enjoy the perfect July afternoon weather from there.
The Nationals (47-39) set season-highs for runs and hits (19) including an insane eight doubles en route to winning for the sixth time in seven games.
Ryan Zimmerman went 4 for 5 with three RBIs. He accounted for two of those doubles, as did Jayson Werth while Anthony Rendon had three. Every starter had at least one hit, including Gonzalez.
Villanueva (4-6) struggled in previous starts this season, the last one coming in April. His next one might not be for a while. Washington sent 10 batters to the plate in the third against the righty and reliever Chris Rusin, generating six hits including run-scoring doubles by Anthony Rendon, Werth and Zimmerman. Wilson Ramos nearly added a fourth double with a shot off the right field wall, but settled for an RBI single.
Ramos' hit scored Ian Desmond from first after the shortstop's RBI hit, a feat he also accomplished in the second to give Washington a 1-0. Rendon and Werth also had two RBIs.
Gonzalez (6-4) pitched eight innings, allowing four hits with seven strikeouts and one walk. He has not allowed a run in three consecutive starts while extending his scoreless innings streak to 22.
Washington added two more runs in the sixth of Rusin and another four in the seventh.
Rusin, who allowed five runs and nine hits, stayed in despite his early struggles because of the Cubs shorthanded staff. We should note Chicago (38-47) recalled him from Triple-A Iowa before the game because they needed more arms following the trade. Good deal indeed, for the Nats anyway.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Even with a righty on the mound for Chicago, Nationals manager Matt Williams returned Rendon returned to the second spot in the order with the lefty-swinging Bryce Harper hitting sixth. Based on this specific lineup's success - on Saturday and earlier in the week - don't expect another change outside of rest for Sunday. Rendon went 3 for 4 with a walk, three runs scored and two RBI. Harper finished 1 of 3. He also played centerfield defensively for the final two innings when Williams began liberally subbing starters out of the lineup.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Bummer this game wasn't played one day later, because for Gonzalez this outing was essentially as easy as Sunday morning. Due to some lengthy at-bats, the lefty threw 53 pitches during the first three innings. He needed just 56 over his final five innings against the Cubs, who had only runner reach scoring position. After Washington's big scoring burst, Gonzalez had no worries and even added to the hit parade with a single in the seventh.
KEY STAT: The Nats have scored at least seven runs in four off their last six games.
UP NEXT: Jordan Zimmermann (6-4,2.95) faces Jake Arrieta (5-1, 1.81), who has flirted with no-hitters in his previous two starts. First pitch is set for 1:35 p.m.