HIGHLIGHTS: Nationals Overpower Cardinals, 8-3

Ian Quillen, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Nationals are no longer shocked by the kind of offensive performance Daniel Murphy gave on Tuesday night.

Amazed, maybe. But not shocked.

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In his latest impressive game, Murphy homered, doubled twice and tied career highs with five RBIs and four hits to help the Nationals to an 8-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Is he really surprising you?” Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez said. “He’s unreal. Right now he’s a human torch. You can’t touch him.”

Matt Wieters and Jayson Werth also hit solo shots as Washington followed up a 14-6 series opening win Monday with another onslaught.

It was more than enough support for Gonzalez (1-0), who allowed two runs — one earned — over seven innings and retired his last 11 batters.

His first clean inning came after Wieters’ and Werth’s solo shots gave Washington a 4-2 lead in the fourth. His second after Murphy blasted a two-run shot off Lance Lynn into the upper deck to make it 6-2 in the fifth.

“Gio’s had a little trouble in the past with the shutdown inning after we score,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker. “And he gave up the one and didn’t give them any more. And then he shut them down the rest of the way.”

Murphy is batting .472 with five doubles, two homers and an MLB-leading 17 hits in the cleanup spot. This after he finished second in the 2016 NL MVP race with a .347 average, 25 homers and 104 RBIs in his first season in Washington.

“He’s talking about the craziest stuff I’ve ever heard of before,” Werth said of Muprhy’s approach. “I try not to listen to him, but it’s working for him. … If I tried to do that I might never get a hit.”

Murphy pointed out that Nats’ No. 3 hitter Bryce Harper is almost equally hot. Harper walked three times against Lynn to reach base in nine straight plate appearances going back to Monday. He later doubled.

“You look at the at-bats that Bryce is having — three walks tonight and a double down the left-field line (tonight),” Murphy said. “He’s so dangerous right now.”

Lynn (0-1) allowed six runs — four earned — and five hits and four walks over five innings. Randal Grichuk and Aldemys Diaz homered for St. Louis, and Jose Martinez went 2 for 4 in his first start.

“You look at their lineup and they’re all going about as good as they can go,” Lynn said. “When you see that lineup you know that they’re capable of that. I made three mistakes and it cost my three home runs.”

BRYCE ON BASE

After going 4 for 4 with two walks Monday, Harper’s three walks Tuesday helped him equal a stretch from May 7 and 8 of last year. In it, the Chicago Cubs and manager Joe Maddon issued Harper four intentional passes, including three in Harper’s six-walk game on May 8. Harper left the series at Wrigley Field hitting .265. By June 4, the 2015 NL MVP’s average had dipped to .238.

BULLPEN BLUES

St. Louis relievers allowed eight of Washington’s 14 runs on Monday and allowed two more runs — one earned — in three innings Tuesday. Their relief group remains ranked last in the majors with an 8.14 ERA.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: Left-handed hitting 1B Matt Carpenter was out of the starting lineup with back tightness against the lefty Gonzalez, but pinch hit in the ninth inning.

Nationals: Stephen Drew exited the game after five innings with a right hamstring injury and will be evaluated. … 3B Anthony Rendon began the game on the bench after manager Dusty Baker said he wasn’t sure “if his leg is right 100 percent,” and then later replaced Drew.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Mike Leake looks to build upon an eight-inning outing to open the season.

Nationals: Max Scherzer makes his first home start since the right-hander won the 2016 NL Cy Young Award.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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