The fact that the Baltimore Orioles right-hander was returning from a 17-day layoff made his task even more challenging.
Norris allowed five runs in his shortest outing of the season, and the Orioles lost 6-2 Wednesday night in an interleague duel between crosstown foes and division leaders.
Each team has one win in the rain-shortened, home-and-home showdown that concludes Thursday night. Washington has won eight of 10 overall and Baltimore is 7-2 in its last nine games.
Norris (7-6) gave up five runs and six hits in four-plus innings in his first appearance since June 21. He won four straight starts before going on the disabled list with a right groin strain.
Was he rusty? Without a doubt.
"It's obviously some of it. As much as you do side work and (simulated) games and stuff like that, there's no substitute for the adrenaline and the challenge of facing major league hitters, especially ones as good as Washington has," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "So it will get better. We've seen what he's capable of."
The five runs and two home runs Norris allowed matched season highs.
"It definitely was a little bit different, but I just wanted to go out there and compete," Norris said. "That's a good team over there. All the 1-2, 0-2 mistakes that I made they hit."
"I feel fine at the plate, seeing the ball well," Machado said. "I'm just trying to keep this going."
The Nationals usually win with pitching, and Doug Fister was more than efficient. But on this night Washington outdid the hard-hitting Orioles at their own game, using home runs by Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth to win this matchup between teams located 40 miles apart on I-295.
"This is a good ballpark to hit home runs in," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "All you need to do is look at the other dugout to see that."
Fister (8-2) scattered seven hits, walked two and struck out three. He is 8-1 in his last 11 starts and 52-52 for his career, the first time the right-hander has been at .500 since 6-6 in 2010.
"He was pretty good," said Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph, who hit into two double plays. "He sinks the ball so well and he's got that curveball, he didn't bust it out until the second or third time around. And he's got a good enough slider to hit one off the barrel."
Washington jumped on Norris for two first-inning runs. After Anthony Rendon and Werth hit successive doubles, Adam LaRoche delivered an RBI single.
Davis singled in a run in the bottom half, and Ramos made it 3-1 in the second with a shot to left.
Desmond hit his 16th home run in the fourth, a drive that landed in the front row of the bleachers in center field. Machado got the run back in the home half with his ninth home run, the fifth in eight games.
LaRoche added a sacrifice fly in the fifth and Werth homered off Brad Brach in the seventh.
The Nationals played their 13th consecutive errorless game, matching their longest streak since coming to Washington from Montreal in 2005.
NOTES: Wei-Yin Chen (0-2, 7.71 ERA vs the Nationals) faces Gio Gonzalez in the series finale Thursday night. ... Ramos extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games. ... Washington's Danny Espinosa went 0 for 3 and is mired in an 0-for-22 skid. His teammate, Bryce Harper, went 0 for 4 and is 4 for 28 since coming off the DL following left thumb surgery.