WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez needed to be spot on with his pitches Friday night. No, not because he was facing the St. Louis Cardinals. His mother was sitting right behind home plate.
"Imagine seeing [Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki's] face, then the umpire then my mom," said Gonzalez, who allowed five hits. "It was like, 'Uh oh, can't disappoint you ma.'
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"You can hear her on every at-bat, 'swing, do this,' and I'm like someone has to keep her quiet over there," Gonzalez said, joyful. "One of those kind of things when you have your whole family here you want to step it up and enjoy it."
Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each drove in two runs and the Nationals sent 10 batters to the plate during a four-run third inning against Wainwright (13-11), who entered 5-0 in August.
Perfect through three innings, Gonzalez (17-7) held the suddenly anemic St. Louis lineup hitless through four innings. He finished with eight strikeouts and walked three during his 119-pitch outing en route to his fourth win in five starts.
The left-hander tied Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto and New York Mets starter R.A. Dickey for the major league lead in wins.
The 26-year-old Gonzalez's father watched his son's third complete game from another location in the stadium.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson had a 120-pitch count on Gonzalez.
"He took me right to the edge," Johnson said. "I might have let him go over my predetermined number otherwise I'd have had Gio hassling me all week," Johnson said. "What a great effort."
Admittedly running on fumes late, Gonzalez received a pick me up with the remaining crowd hollering "Let's go Gio!" as he strode to the mound in the ninth. Two runners reached, the punchless Cardinals came up empty, finishing 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
"It felt like it was a boost of energy, like having a Red Bull there in ninth," Gonzalez said.
Zimmerman smacked a two-run homer in the eighth inning and Jayson Werth had three hits for the NL East-leading Nationals. Since scoring six runs during a recent five-game losing streak, the Nationals have outscored their opponents 26-5 in three straight win, two coming against the slumping Cardinals.
St. Louis, the National League leaders in batting average and runs scored, has tallied only one run during their four-game losing streak while allowing 32. The Cardinals entered the day one-half game ahead of Pittsburgh for the final National League wild-card slot.
"We face good pitching all season long," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "This shouldn't happen to us one day, let alone four. These guys are embarrassed right now. We're all embarrassed. That's not the team we are."
Same could be said of Wainwright, who allowed six runs and nine hits with three walks and three strikeouts. The right-hander yielded only six earned runs in 36 2-3 innings over his previous five starts.
"Just a really weird night," Wainwright said. "Nothing that's going to do anything but motivate me for next time. Definitely a loss you can pin on my shoulders."
LaRoche's single in the first inning drove in two runs.
Harper finished 2 of 4, his third straight game with two hits, including a two-run single in the fifth. The 19-year old is batting .429 (6 of 14) with two homers and eight RBIs in his last three games.
The Nationals picked on Wainwright early with two runs on four hits in the first inning and ended his night in the third. Three straight RBI singles from Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Suzuki put the Nationals ahead by five runs and Werth laced a two-out RBI single for a 6-0 lead.
Werth finished 3 of 3 with two walks, two runs scored and an RBI.
"We got things going pretty early," Harper said. "That was the biggest thing; we scored runs early and let Gio go out there and pitch."
The Nationals have won five straight against the Cardinals overall and eight of nine at home dating back to 2010.
Yadier Molina ended any thoughts of a no-hitter with a leadoff double in the fifth, but the Cardinals left him stranded. Two more runners reached in the sixth, but Gonzalez escaped with another double play.
"We ran into a guy who's got great stuff, pitching with confidence, and a team struggling to score runs," Holliday said. "That's a bad combination."
- Before the game the Cardinals placed All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right elbow. Shortstop Pete Kozma, promoted from Triple-A Memphis, batted eighth.
- The Cardinals said outfielder Lance Berkman would be activated from the 15-day DL on Saturday. He's been out since Aug. 3 with an injured right knee.
- Johnson announced infielder Mark DeRosa, out since Aug. 5 with a groin injury, would be activated off the disabled list on Saturday.
- Jordan Zimmermann will start Saturday for Washington against fellow right-hander Kyle Lohse.