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Harper homers in 9-run 1st inning, leads Gonzalez, Nationals over Pirates 9-2

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WASHINGTON — With the way the Washington Nationals are pitching these days, they hardly needed all of the runs Bryce Harper and his teammates provided from the start.

Harper and Yunel Escobar homered as the Nationals scored a team-record nine times in the first inning, plenty for Gio Gonzalez to cruise past the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-2 Sunday.

Gonzalez (5-4) threw seven shutout innings as the Nationals completed a three-game sweep.

"The last three guys that we've had start games have pitched really well," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "That sets our tone."

Pittsburgh arrived at Nationals Park this weekend with an eight-game winning streak, but was stopped by the pitching-rich Nationals. Max Scherzer came within one strike of a perfect game while throwing a no-hitter Saturday, and rookie Joe Ross struck out 11 in the series opener.

Harper hit his 24th homer, extending his career high and connecting in his second straight game after sitting out Friday with a tender hamstring.

Charlie Morton (5-1) had won all five of his starts this season. But the Nationals erupted for the biggest first inning in their history, and Morton was charged with all nine runs on eight hits and a walk while getting just two outs.

"Toss it! Kick it to the curb!" Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said after the Pirates' lost weekend during which they scored just three runs.

Gonzalez gave up four hits, struck out four and walked two. This came after he allowed five runs and eight hits in just 3 1-3 innings at Tampa Bay in his previous start.

Gonzalez won a day after Scherzer's near-perfect performance.

PHOTO: Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper (34) celebrates his two-run homer with his teammates during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper (34) celebrates his two-run homer with his teammates during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

"It's kind of tough to follow up on his act," Gonzalez said. "My response was just to try to bounce back from a terrible start. I was attacking the strike zone . everything just worked today."

Gonzalez passed the injured Stephen Strasburg for second on the Nationals' career victory list with 47. He also hit an RBI double.

After Morton retired the first batter, Escobar singled and Harper homered. The Nationals batted around, and Escobar's three-run homer finished Morton and brought Vance Worley from the bullpen.

Corey Hart hit a two-run homer in the Pittsburgh ninth off Felipe Rivero.

UP NEXT

Pirates: Open a three-game series with visiting Cincinnati on Tuesday.

Nationals: Start a three-game series with visiting Atlanta on Tuesday.

MOVES

The Nationals activated pitcher Tanner Roark from the paternity list and sent fellow right-hander Taylor Hill back to Triple-A Syracuse.

BOO WHO?

Pittsburgh's Jose Tabata was booed during each of his at-bats. He ended Scherzer's bid for a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning when he was hit by a pitch — many thought he lowered his left elbow a bit to get nicked.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, left, relieves starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) with catcher Francisco Cervelli (29) nearby, during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Washington. The Pirates gave up nine runs in the first inning. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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