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WSH@MIL: Jackson tosses seven shutout frames vs. Crew

MILWAUKEE -- The Nationals accomplished something on Thursday night that hadn't been done by a Washington baseball team in nearly seven decades.

By rolling over the Brewers, 8-2, before a crowd of 33,176 at Miller Park, the Nationals moved to 20 games over .500 with a 59-39 record. The 1945 Washington Senators were the last big league team based in the nation's capital to do so, finishing 87-67.

The Nationals hit that mark and won their sixth straight, tied for their longest winning streak of the season, and jumped into a tie with the Yankees for the best record in the Majors. So, what do all of these records and feats mean to the Nationals?

"Nothing. It's July," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "We have the best record in September or October, then you can talk about it. ... Hopefully, at the end, we'll be where we want to be."

"We're in a great position. I don't think you're going to hear anybody say, 'OK, we've arrived. This is what we wanted. Let's shut it down,'" added first baseman Adam LaRoche. "The guys know the team we've got. We know what we're capable of doing. But I've seen a lot of crazy things happen in the last month or two of the season where teams have blown big leads."

But Washington isn't showing any signs of letting up. The club that won only 59 games in 2008 and '09 has already won 59 through 98 games in '12.

"Those guys deserve it. They've hung in there when times were really tough," manager Davey Johnson said. "Shoot, we've earned it."

The Nationals earned Thursday's big win courtesy of Edwin Jackson's strong outing and yet another big night from a surging offense. They have scored five or more runs in nine of their last 11 games, and they're averaging more than five runs per game since the All-Star break.

"They're pretty good," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "They're down two or three of their best guys -- their starting catcher [Wilson Ramos] is out, their starting shortstop [Ian Desmond] is out and their starting right fielder [Jayson Werth] is out. I mean, that's pretty amazing for that team to be that good and be down those three key guys right there. Pretty impressive."

Jackson was the beneficiary of his lineup's success against Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo, but he hardly needed the support. Coming off a tough-luck loss to the Braves, the right-hander worked seven scoreless innings, lowered his ERA to 3.52 and evened his record at 6-6.

He ran into trouble, putting at least two runners on in four of his seven innings, but managed to minimize the damage and keep his pitch count in check. He averaged an efficient 15 pitches per frame, though he attributed his ability to get out of jams to his defense and the fact that he was working with a four-run lead in the second inning.

"When you have an offensive explosion like we had, it definitely motivates you to come out and want to pump the strike zone and let the defense play behind you," Jackson said.

LaRoche kicked off the second with a solo shot to right field on the first pitch of the at-bat, his third straight game with a homer. LaRoche has homered in three straight games for the second time in his career, the first coming with the Braves from Aug. 17-19, 2009.

But Jackson also helped prolong a two-out rally in the second, which started with a Roger Bernadina walk and a single by Jesus Flores, by working a full count and walking to load the bases against Gallardo. That set up Steve Lombardozzi's three-run triple to right field -- the first three-base hit of Lombardozzi's career -- to give Washington a 4-0 lead.

Jackson played a part in the Nationals' three-run fifth inning as well, stroking a leadoff single and wheeling from first to third on Bryce Harper's hit. Jackson scored on Zimmerman's single to right field, and Harper came home on LaRoche's groundout to first. Michael Morse put the finishing touches on Washington's second big inning with an RBI single to center.

"I'm sure they don't like pitchers to come out and run the bases aggressively, but at the end of the day, these guys work hard to get their hits," Jackson said. "When they do, you want to honor them and run the bases like a normal position player. And it helped."

It helped spark the Nationals' offense. It helped them climb to 20 games above .500. It helped them claim a share of the best record in baseball. But really, the way they're looking at it, it just helped them get one step closer to their real goal.

"We all know in the clubhouse what we're able to do and what we're capable of doing. It's just a matter of going out and doing it," Jackson said. "We're doing that right now."

"We have the talent here, the makeup," added Johnson. "If we just play up to our abilities, we'll be fine. We can win a pennant."

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