Posted August 30, 2012 on AP on Fox
Bryce Harper hit his third home run in two games, Jason Werth homered for the first time since May, and Edwin Jackson struck out 10 Thursday night as the Washington Nationals padded their NL East lead with an 8-1 win over the punchless St. Louis Cardinals. The Nationals opened an 11-game homestand with an overwhelming performance against a wild-card contender that failed to score an earned run for the third straight game. Jackson (8-9) was so dominant that three of his strikeouts required throws to first because the Cardinals were chasing balls in the dirt. The victory moved the Nationals 5 1/2 games ahead of the idle Atlanta Braves. Washington's recent five-game losing streak has tightened the race again, but manager Davey Johnson's team has come out of the funk with 16 runs in two games. Jaime Garcia (3-6) allowed six runs over 5 1-3 innings. The Cardinals' streak of 28 scoreless innings came to an when Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman launched a throw well over the first baseman's head in the eighth inning, allowing a runner to score from second on the error. St. Louis now has a half-game lead in the race for the NL's second wild-card spot. Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal left in the sixth inning after straining his right elbow while making a throw to second. A day after his first two-homer game, Harper hit a drive so hard that it short-hopped the back wall of the Nationals bullpen and bounced all the way back over the right-field fence. It was a two-run shot in the first inning, and the teenager followed by hitting the ball even farther in the third - only to have it caught on the warning track near the 402-foot mark in straightaway center field. Some in the crowd gave him a standing ovation as he returned to the dugout. Harper added an RBI single in the sixth. Werth led off three innings and scored each time. He walked and singled, then hit his first homer since returning Aug. 2 from a long stint on the disabled list with a broken wrist. He has four home runs on the season and raised his average to .305. The Cardinals, shut out in back-to-back games by Pittsburgh before arriving in Washington, got on the board when Bryan Anderson led off the eighth with a double and came home on Zimmerman's error. NOTES: St. Louis LF Matt Holliday singled in the first for his 1,500th career hit. ... The Nationals pitching staff surpassed its previous best total for strikeouts in a season since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005 - and there's still 32 games to go. ... Cardinals C Yadier Molina, who collided with Pittsburgh Pirates 2B Josh Harrison on Tuesday, was medically cleared to play just a few hours before Thursday's game. He went 0 for 2 with a walk. ''I really didn't want to pass on the struggles that I had and automatically throw them on to him,'' said manager Mike Matheny, whose playing career ended in 2007 due to a concussion. ''Just because I had a soft squash doesn't mean that he does. It's not fair not to him. The conversation we had was, `Hey, if you pass the tests and the doctors say it's OK, I'm not going to stop you. But I'm going to be extra cautious, because I know more about this than any one person should know.''' ... Gio Gonzalez starts for the Nationals on Friday night, facing Adam Wainwright. --- Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
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