Apr 24, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the fifth inning at PETCO Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
Washington Nationals' left-hander Gio Gonzalez needed just six pitches to retire the San Diego Padres' top three in order in the bottom of the first inning tonight in the first of a three-game series at Petco Park that started the Nats' six-game trip through southern California. By the end of his two-walk, 28-pitch second, the 26-year-old starter was talking to himself as he returned to the dugoout with his second scoreless inning on the night, his own sixteenth scoreless overall and the Nats' starters' eighteenth-straight scoreless frame as a rotation. A 15-pitch third had the left-hander at 49 pitches total after three innings, but unfortunately, Padres' lefty Clayton Richard held the Nationals' batters hitless through four with Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa reaching on a fielding error and walk, respectively, to start the top of the first before the San Diego starter began a string of eleven-straight batters set down through 4.0 scoreless innings of his own.
The seventeenth pitch of Gio Gonzalez's fourth was an 81 mph 1-2 curve that got a swinging K from Padres' second baseman Orlando Hudson. The strikeout was the Nats' left-hander's third through four scoreless and 20.0 scoreless overall by Washington's starters. Adam LaRoche doubled to start the Nationals' 5th, for the Nats' first hit of the night and the first baseman's fourth double of 2012. Xavier Nady did his job, moving the runner over to third with a groundout, but Wilson Ramos' weak grounder to second in the next at bat forced LaRoche to stay put and allowed the Padres to walk Steve Lombardozzi and pitch to Gio Gonzalez. The right-handed hitting pitcher lined to left-center, but San Diego's Chris Denorfia caught it on the run and headed in to the dugout with no runs on the board for either team after four and a half.
Clayton Richard K'd swinging at a cruel 0-2 curve from Gio Gonzalez to end a quick, seven-pitch 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth, and the Padres' lefty then headed back to the hill where he struck Ian Desmond out with a diving 2-2 two-seamer inside for his fifth strikeout of the evening. Danny Espinosa sent an 0-1 fastball back to the mound for out no.2 in what looked like it would be another quick frame, but Mark DeRosa drew a two-out walk, and a balk by Richard moved the runner into scoring position with Jayson Werth at the plate. Before Werth could take a pitch Padres' manager Bud Black came out to argue the balk call and got himself tossed by home plate ump Lance Barrett. Four pitches later, Werth was on too when Richard got behind 2-0 and pitched around the Nats' outfielder to get to the left-handed Adam LaRoche, who K'd swinging at a 95 mph 1-2 fastball upstairs. 6.0 scoreless for the San Diego starter. Still 0-0.
Gio Gonzalez went to a full count with Chris Denorfia when Lance Barrett squeezed the Nationals' starter on a 2-2 curve that caught the batter and home plate umpire off guard, but the Nats' lefty popped the Padres' outfielder up to right field where Mark DeRosa caught the first out of Gio's sixth. Will Venable's one-out bunt single was equally surprising and got by the pitcher before dying in the infield grass in front of a charging Danny Espinosa. Out no.2 came via swinging K, Gonzalez's fifth, which he got with a 92mph four-seamer upstairs to Chase Headley. Another high heater to Nick Hundley had Gonzalez up to six K's total and through six scoreless with an eighteen-pitch frame that left him at 91 pitches total.
Xavier Nady's first double of the year started the seventh with the Nationals' second hit of the game off Clayton Richard after Adam LaRoche had started the fifth with his own two-bagger for the only other Nats' hit. Wilson Ramos failed in an attempt to score LaRoche from third in a one-out at bat the fifth. The Nats' catcher took a full-count fastball low for ball four in the top of the seventh. Both runners moved into scoring position on a nicely executed sac bunt by Steve Lombardozzi, and both runners then scored on a pinch hit single up the middle by Nats' bench bat Chad Tracy, who hit for Gio Gonzalez and finally broke up the dueling shutouts. 2-0 Nats after six and a half. But Gio Gonzalez was done for the night, with his own string of 20.0 scoreless and 22.0 scoreless overall by Nationals' starters...
• Gio Gonzalez's line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K's, 91 pitches, 61 strikes, 5/2 GO/FO.
Nats' right-hander Craig Stammen took over in the seventh, immediately issuing a leadoff walk to Padres' outfielder Cameron Maybin and giving up a single by Orlando Hudson. Tyler Clippard relieved Stammen with Yonder Alonso due up. The Padres' first baseman wasn't bunting, and he K'd swinging through a 2-2 change. Pinch hitter Andy Parrino singled to center in the next at bat, however, and Jayson Werth misplayed it, allowing Maybin to score from third when it should have been bases loaded, 2-1 Nats. Mark Kotsay battled for twelve pitches in a PH appearance, and Parrino stole second before Tyler Clippard popped the Padres' pinch hitter up to short for out no.2. With runners on second and third, Clippard then went to a full count with Chris Denorfia, who grounded out to third to end San Diego's seventh. Still 2-1 Washington.
Nats' lefty Sean Burnett got his tower buzzed and got knocked flat on his back by a one-out, line drive single to center by Chase Headley in the Padres' eighth. Headley took second on a weak grounder to first by Nick Hundley, but he was stranded there when Burnett got a called strike three on Cameron Maybin with a 1-2 sinker outside. 2-1 Nats after eight. Wilson Ramos lined to right with one down in the Nationals' ninth, and Padres' right fielder Will Venable lost it in the lights and flat-out missed one, allowing the catcher to hustle around to third as Cameron Maybin retrieved the ball near the wall. Rick Ankiel came on one out later vs Padres' lefty Joe Thatcher, and drove in run number three for the Nationals with a two-out single to center that made it a 3-1 game and gave Nats' closer Henry Rodriguez a little breathing room.
Henry Rodriguez doesn't need breathing room. Rodriguez dropped a filthy 88 mph 1-2 slider on Orlando Hudson. Strike three. ONE!! Yonder Alonso grounded out weakly to second on a 1-1 100 mph 4-seamer. TWO!! And Andy Parrino flew out to right, 1-2-3 to end a 3-1 Nationals' win. 12 pitches, 9 strikes and save no. 5 of the year for Henry Rodriguez. Gio Gonzalez gets the win, (2-0).
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Nationals now 13-4.