WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Nationals are closing in on their first postseason berth and they're not easing up — even against one of baseball's worst teams.
For the second consecutive game, Washington tied a franchise record with six home runs Wednesday night in a 9-1 rout of the Chicago Cubs.
Bryce Harper hit two homers and Gio Gonzalez won his 18th game. Adam LaRoche kept up his tear at the plate with three hits for the Nationals, who have won four straight and own the best record in the majors at 84-52. They maintained a 7½-game lead over Atlanta in the NL East.
"Good teams take nothing for granted," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "Guys down at the bottom, sometimes they have more energy and more to prove than guys at the top. We've been down there enough. We know what it's like, we're not letting up."
LaRoche has hit three of those 12 long balls, and his streak of reaching base in nine consecutive plate appearances was snapped by a seventh-inning strikeout.
LaRoche also has four singles and two walks in the past two games.
"It's just one of those stretches that nobody can explain. They don't happen too often," he said.
The 19-year-old Harper had his second multihomer game. Previously, only Mel Ott and Ken Griffey Jr. had accomplished that feat as teenagers.
"I don't think anybody's satisfied where we're at right now," Harper said. "We don't want to let down to anybody. We don't want to play at that level. We want to play at our level."
Gonzalez (18-7), who shut out St. Louis on five hits in his last start, allowed only three singles in seven scoreless innings to tie Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey for most wins in the majors. Dickey beat the Cardinals 6-2 earlier in the day.
Gonzalez struck out nine and walked none. He has yielded eight hits and no runs in his last 16 innings.
He says being a 20-game winner isn't on his mind.
"We're playing such great baseball, it's selfish of me to think of myself," Gonzalez said. "Individual stuff is nice, but all said and done it's a team thing."
Craig Stammen worked the final two innings and allowed a ninth-inning homer to Anthony Rizzo, his 11th.
Gonzalez did not give up a hit until Darwin Barney led off the sixth with a single past third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.