Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo came up with the package Oakland A's GM Billy Beane was looking for and with four prospects, (two major league-ready arms just entering their mid-20's; a 6'4'', 19-year-old power right-hander; and a power-hitting, high-OBP backstop) acquired a pitcher, 26-year-old left-hander Gio Gonzalez, that the general manager described to reporters this winter as a, "young power-throwing left-hander," with "plus plus stuff," who, "matches up very nicely between our two power right-handers [Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann]."
That's where the lefty found himself this afternoon after a 2011 season with the A's in which he was (16-12) in 32 starts and 202.0 IP over which he had a 3.12 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 91 walks (4.05 BB/9) and 197 K's (8.78 K/9). Gonzalez made his first start in a Nationals uniform against the Cubs today after Strasburg's brilliant Opening Day performance in Wrigley Field.
A 92 mph fastball for a strike started Gonzalez career in a Nats uniform, and he recorded his first K with a 1-2 backdoor breaking ball that fell in for called strike three on Cubs' outfielder Reed Johnson. Gonzalez missed with a 2-2 bender to the next batter, Joe Mather, however, then walked him when he missed with a full-count fastball. #microcosm. The Gio that makes you wonder then emerged, as he gave up a one-out single to center by Starlin Castro that put runners on first and third and threw a wild pitch with two down that let Mather score for a 1-0 Cubs' lead. The second walk of his first inning as a National put two on with two out, but the left-hander got a groundout to first to end a 25-pitch opening frame...
Gio Gonzalez added two K's in a scoreless 15-pitch inning in the second, which had the left-hander at 40 pitches to Cubs' right-hander Matt Garza's 20 after two innings in Wrigley. Gonzalez then threw a quick, 11-pitch third in which the Nats' lefty record his fourth K of the afternoon, getting Cubs' first baseman Jeff Baker on a check-swing strike three with a 1-2 curve in the dirt after he'd surrendered a two-out single to center by Alfonso Soriano.
Nats' SS Ian Desmond worked a seven-pitch leadoff walk off the Cubs' Matt Garza to start the fourth with the Nats' first baserunner since Danny Espinosa's one-out infield single in the first. Two outs later, Desmond was still standing at first when Adam LaRoche got hold of a 95 mph fastball and yanked it to right and off the foul pole for a two-out, two-run HR that gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead over the Cubs. The HR was LaRoche's first since April 24, 2011. Gio Gonzalez gave up a leadoff single by Geovany Soto and a walk to Marlon Byrd in the Cubs' fourth, but then struck Darwin Barney out with an 0-2 curve in the dirt, and got Garza to K trying to bunt (for the second time in two AB's) before a two-out, two-run triple on a line drive to right and a two-out single by Joe Mather gave the Cubs a 4-2 lead. A third-straight two-out single ended Gonzalez's debut...
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K's, 74 pitches, 46 strikes, 2/2 GO/FO.
Roger Bernadina buzzed Matt Garza with a one-out line drive single to center in the Nats' fifth and Wilson Ramos followed with a grounder back to the mound and off the Cubs' starter's foot for a single, but after Craig Stammen, who replaced Gio in the fourth, stayed in to hit and bunted both runners over, Ian Desmond lined out to left where Alfonso Soriano made a fully-extended, awkward, leaping catch to rob the Nats' infielder of extra bases and preserve the Cubs' 4-2 lead.
Nats' right-hander Craig Stammen worked around a leadoff single, one-out HBP and wild pitch that put runners on second and third with one down, striking Joe Mather out with a nasty slider in the dirt before Starlin Castro's groundout to third ended the top of the 6th. 24-year-old Chicago rookie right-hander Rafael Dolis retired the Nationals in order in the seventh on seven pitches. Nats' right-hander Ryan Mattheus retired the Cubs in order on 10 pitches in the bottom of the inning.
Kerry Wood set the first two batters down in the Nats' eighth, but Danny Espinosa battled with the veteran reliever, fouling off four two-strike pitches in a 10-pitch at bat before sending a solo shot to left field, over the ivy and into the bleachers. Opposite field solo HR for Espinosa, his first of the year and it's a 4-3 game in the Cubs' favor. Ryan Zimmerman followed the home run with a broken bat single then went first-to-third on Adam LaRoche's third hit in four at bats. Carlos Marmol replaced Wood with Jayson Werth (0 for 3, 2 K's) due up, and walked the Nats' right fielder on five pitches to load the bases for Chad Tracy. Tracy, whose double off Marmol on Thursday set up the winning run, went down 0-2 but battled back and lined a two-out, two-run single to right to give the Nats a 5-4 lead. 6-4 when Werth scored on a Roger Bernadina single. Steve Lombardozzi added an RBI infield single and it was 7-4 Nats after a 5-run top of the eighth.
Tyler Clippard threw 28 pitches, 11 of them to Reed Johnson, in a scoreless bottom of the eight that ended with the Cubs' outfielder fouling strike three into Wilson Ramos' mitt. Still 7-4 Nationals. Adam LaRoche collected his fourth hit in five at bats with a two-out single, but the Nats failed to score in the top of the ninth. Henry Rodriguez walked the first batter he faced, missing low with a 100mph full-count fastball to Ian Stewart. An 0-2 slider got Starlin Castro swinging. Blake DeWitt chased a 92 mph 2-2 change outside and Jeff Baker took an 85 mph slider for a called strike three. Ballgame. Nats win, 7-4 final.
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