On a chilly April evening, the pitchers figured to be ahead of the hitters. And sure enough, that was true for Gio Gonzalez and Henderson Alvarez. The two young starters combined to allow only one run through 5 1/2 innings. That's not to say Gonzalez was in top form; he racked up a much higher pitch count than necessary and had to be pulled after six innings. But he got the job done before handing things over to a rested Nationals bullpen.

Alvarez, meanwhile, deserved a better fate, but the right-hander wasn't helped by his defense and surrendered a couple of clutch hits. Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper used their legs to create a run in the bottom of the sixth, and Anthony Rendon used his bat to add three insurance runs late.

Toss in three scoreless innings of relief from Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Aaron Barrett, and the Nationals had themselves a nice-and-tidy, shutout victory to open this series. They're 5-2 overall and feeling much better about themselves after a shaky weekend against the Braves.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Perhaps the name of this category should be switched to "Baserunning Highlight" tonight, because that was the difference for the Nationals. Matt Williams has been preaching aggressiveness on the bases, and while that sometimes comes back to haunt them (coughFridaycough) it can also pay big dividends as it did tonight. With two outs in the sixth and runners on the corners, a pitch got away from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, only about five feet. LaRoche didn't hesitate, though, and took off for second base with abandon. Saltalmacchia's throw did beat him to the bag, but second baseman Jeff Baker couldn't make the tag, so LaRoche was safe. Meanwhile, Harper bolted off third base and scored without a throw. That's a perfect example of the aggressiveness Williams would like to see from his team.