Gonzalez wins 21st, Nationals beat Phillies 7-3

Associated Press Modified: September 27, 2012 at 11:02 pm •  Published: September 27, 2012

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Hoping for a big team celebration soon, Gio Gonzalez checked off a few more individual accomplishments.

Gonzalez became the first 21-game winner in the majors, Michael Morse hit two homers and the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 Thursday night to move closer to an NL East title.

Bryce Harper also connected for the playoff-bound Nationals, who reduced their magic number to three. They have a four-game lead over Atlanta with six to play.

"We have to keep fighting," Gonzalez said. "It won't be easy. We just want to do what we've been doing all year."

Gonzalez (21-8) settled down after a shaky start and lasted six innings, allowing three runs and six hits. He's the first NL lefty to win more than 20 games since Dontrelle Willis won 22 for the Florida Marlins in 2005. His 21 wins are a franchise best and the most by a pitcher in the nation's capital since Bob Porterfield had 22 for the Washington Senators in 1953.

Gonzalez and Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (20-6) are considered the leading candidates for the NL Cy Young Award.

The Phillies closed out their home schedule with a loss that left them on the brink of postseason elimination. They trail St. Louis by six games for the second wild-card spot with six games remaining. They finished 40-41 at home, their first losing record at 9-year-old Citizens Bank Park.

"We competed. We never gave up when people never thought we'd even be mentioned for a playoff spot," slugger Ryan Howard said.

The Nationals already are the first major league team in D.C. to reach the postseason in 79 years. They're looking for their first division crown since moving to Washington and the second in franchise history. The Montreal Expos won the NL East in 1981, a strike-shortened season.

"We've got three more we've got to win," manager Davey Johnson said.

Tyler Cloyd (2-2) got roughed up by an offense that feasted on his straight fastballs. Cloyd, who was 15-1 in the minors this season, allowed six runs and six hits in five-plus innings.

Cloyd walked Danny Espinosa to start the fifth and Jayson Werth with two outs. Harper then hit a soft liner to left for a single, scoring Espinosa for a 4-3 lead.

Morse crushed a two-run shot to right-center to give the Nationals a 6-3 lead in the sixth. The ball sailed over Philadelphia's bullpen and landed in front of Washington's relievers, traveling an estimated 448 feet.