WASHINGTON – Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Vance Worley worked out of one jam after another to keep the Washington Nationals scoreless through four innings.
At that point, it seemed hard to imagine that Worley's undoing would come from his inability to retire the opposing pitcher, who came to the plate with a .058 career batting average.
Worley and the Phillies took a 1-0 lead into the fifth. After Washington's Gio Gonzalez led off with a double on a 3-2 pitch, the Nationals got a three-run homer from former Philadelphia star Jayson Werth and cruised to a 7-1 victory Saturday.
Gonzalez was 1 for 17 at the plate over his career before the pivotal drive to right-center.
"When he started the game, I thought he had good stuff," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Worley. "Then he started making mistakes. He had trouble getting Gonzalez out. Werth's home run kind of put us behind and they kept adding on."
Gonzalez allowed one run over seven innings and the Nationals hit a season-high three home runs, had a season-best 15 hits and matched their previous high mark for runs. During a season in which 13 of their first 26 games were decided by one run, Washington celebrated a rare blowout win.
"We haven't won one of those in a while," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "It's not quite what I call a laugher. That's a smiler. We were hanging around, then we got a lead and added to it. It got to be a laugher."
In addition to Werth, Chad Tracy and Ian Desmond also connected for the Nationals, who have won seven straight over Philadelphia dating to last year. By taking the first two games of the three-game set, Washington improved to 8-1 in series play this season.
Rick Ankiel had three hits in a second consecutive game, and Tracy and Steve Lombardozzi also had three hits apiece for Washington. Rookie Bryce Harper went 0 for 4 with a walk, dropping his batting average 55 points to .261.
Gonzalez (3-1) gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked one. Acquired last December in a trade with Oakland, the left-hander has a 1.72 ERA in six starts this season and has yielded only three runs over the last 27 innings.
"Outstanding effort against a good-hitting club," Johnson said. "He made it look easy."
Worley (2-2) gave up five runs and 11 hits in six innings. The right-hander was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his previous three starts, and in this one he kept the Nationals at bay through four innings. But his inability to retire Gonzalez in the fifth proved to be his undoing.
"It bothered me, but he had a good at-bat," Worley said.
Carlos Ruiz drove in the lone run for the Phillies, who have lost six straight against left-handed starters and now trail the Nationals by 5½ games in the NL East.
"They play like they have a chip on their shoulder," Philadelphia's Hunter Pence said.
"They got good starting pitching and guys that can hit," Manuel said. "That's why they are in first place."
Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Shane Victorino hit a leadoff double, advanced on a fly ball and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ruiz, his team-high 19th RBI.
In the bottom half, Tracy doubled with one out and advanced on a two-out infield single before Wilson Ramos bounced out. It was the fourth straight inning that Washington got a runner in scoring position before Worley worked out of the trouble.
The Nationals broke the trend in a momentum-turning fifth that began with the double by Gonzalez. With runners at the corners and one out, Harper hit a fly ball to left that was too short for Gonzalez to tag up. Two pitches later, however, Werth hit a 1-0 pitch over the left-field wall into the Washington bullpen.
"He beat me. All there is to that," Worley said.
Tracy and Danny Espinoza followed with singles and Ankiel hit a run-scoring double, but Tracy was thrown out at the plate on the back end of the play.
Desmond hit a solo shot in the sixth to make it 5-1 and Tracy hit his second of the season with a runner on in the seventh.
NOTES: Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman (shoulder) expects to be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. ... The Phillies send Cole Hamels (3-1) to the mound Sunday night in the series finale. Jordan Zimmermann (1-2) will pitch for Washington. ... The three HRs were tied for the most yielded in a game by Philadelphia this season.