The Washington Nationals kind of needed a win. No big deal, really. They'd lost five of the last seven, sure, but the idea of losing two of three or possibly getting swept by the New York Mets in the Big Apple? That would have the nation's capital more frantic then they are already after a 9-7 start to the 2013 campaign. After 16 games last season, the team that would go on to win the NL East was 12-4. The defending division champs turned to Gio Gonzalez to right the ship on Saturday afternoon in the second of three on the road in the Mets' home.
The 28-year-old, 2012 21-game winner entered today's game (3-1) with a 2.79 ERA, 13 walks (4.03 BB/9) and 23 Ks (7.14 K/9) in five starts and 29.0 innings pitched against the Mets. In Citi Field, he's been lights out in two career starts against NY. Before today's game, the left-hander was (2-0) with a 0.90 ERA, eight walks (3.60 BB/9) and 18 Ks (8.10 K/9) in 20 innings pitched in Flushing, Queens. In his fourth start of the year today, Gonzalez lasted just four innings, but the Nats' bats picked their starter up and Washington took the second game of three from the Mets in New York by a score of 7-6.
Bryce Harper started today's game 3 for 9 with a double, triple and home run off Mets' right-hander Jeremy Hefner so far in the 20-year-old Nats' outfielder's career. Harper walked in his first at bat this afternoon with two down in the first inning, bringing Adam LaRoche up with a runner on, but the left-handed hitting first baseman took a called strike three on a 2-2 change outside and let home plate ump Gerry Davis know he didn't like the call. 0-0 after a half inning.
David Wright spit on a 2-2 curve to work the count full with two down in New York's first, then took the first walk of the game from Gio Gonzalez to bring John Buck up with a runner on, but a weak groundout to short and a force at second ended a 19-pitch frame for the Nationals' left-hander.
Ian Desmond took the first pitch of the second deep to left field and into the PartyCity.com Party City Deck for a solo home run and a 1-0 Nats' lead over the Mets. Desmond's 3rd of 2013. One out later, Danny Espinosa doubled for the fifth time this season, hustling out of the box and around to second on a line drive to right field, but Espinosa was stranded at third when Kurt Suzuki lined one back to the mound and Gio Gonzalez rolled one weakly toward the opposing pitcher.
Gio Gonzalez got Ike Davis looking with a 93 mph 0-2 fastball outside for the first out of the top of the second. Mets' right fielder Marlon Byrd reached on an infield single in the next at bat when Ian Desmond couldn't backhand a grounder deep in the hole at short, but after the sort of play that's led to trouble for the Nationals in recent games, Gio Gonzalez got a weak lineout to short and a backwards K with a 78 mph 1-2 curve inside to Collin Cowgill that was called strike three. 3 Ks in 2.0 IP, 36 pitches overall for Gonzalez after 17-pitch second.
Jayson Werth doubled to start the third, sending a low liner to the corner in left, and Werth scored when Bryce Harper took Jeremy Hefner deep in the next AB. Over the XEROX sign on Citi Field's right field wall and out of the field of play for a two-run blast and 3-0 Nats' lead. Werth's second double. Harper's sixth home run of 2013. Second career vs Hefner. 3-0 Nationals after two and a half. Gio Gonzalez added two more Ks in the bottom of the third on the way to a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 inning that had him at 49 pitches total after 3.0 scoreless.
Chad Tracy was running with Danny Espinosa at the plate after Tracy walked to start the fourth, but the Nationals' veteran infielder was thrown out at second by John Buck when Espinosa came up empty swinging at a 3-1 change. Two down quickly and Jeremy Hefner caught a grounder to the mound behind his back before firing to first to throw out Kurt Suzuki. 3-0 Nats in the fourth.
David Wright went with a 2-2 curve outside from Gio Gonzalez and tripled off the Stub Hub sign on Citi Field's right field wall. A walk to John Buck put runners on first and third, but Ike Davis grounded back to the mound for out no.1 and Marlon Byrd grounded to third and got Wright caught in a rundown or out no.2. A walk to Lucas Duda loaded the bases, however, and a weak line drive to left by Collin Cowgill brought two runs in. 3-2 Nats' lead. A walk to Ruben Tejada loaded the bases again and a two-out single by Justin Turner made it 4-3 New York. Gonzalez was up to 39 pitches in the 4th when he missed low with a fastball to go behind Daniel Murphy, 3-1, and Murphy lined the next pitch to right to make it a 5-3 game. A 41-pitch fourth had Gio at 90 pitches overall.
Gio Gonzalez's line: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 5 Ks, 90 P, 50 S, 6/0 GO/FO
Jayson Werth walked with two down in the top of the fifth, bringing Bryce Harper up again with a runner on, and the Nats' 20-year-old outfielder hit an opposite field double to left on a full-count pitch from Mets' left-hander Aaron Laffey. Adam LaRoche came up next with two on and two out and... LaRoche went yard! The Nats' first baseman hit an opposite field blast into the Party City Deck over the left field fence and the Nats took a 6-5 lead on the three-run home run. LaRoche's 3rd. 6-5 Nationals after four and a half. Nats' right-hander Craig Stammen needed 19 pitches to retire the Mets in order in the bottom of the fifth.
Brandon Lyon retired the Nats in order in the top of the sixth. Craig Stammen struck out the side in the bottom of the frame, collecting his third, fourth and fifth Ks in 2.0 scoreless. Still 6-5 Nationals. Mets' lefty Josh Edgin threw the fourth 1-2-3 inning in a row in the top of the seventh. Ryan Mattheus took over for the Nationals in the Mets' half of the frame. Justin Turner grounded to short. Grounder. Desmond. Out. Desmond's throw to first in the next at bat was too late to get Daniel Murphy, breaking up a retired batter streak (by both teams) that stretched back to the top of the fifth. David Wright flew to right for out no.2 of the Mets' seventh, but a John Buck line drive to left brought Murphy around to tie it at 6-6. Tyler Clippard came on to retire Ike Davis and end the seventh, but it was tied.
Not for long! Bryce Harper hit his second home run of the game and his seventh of 2013 out to right field in Citi Field and almost onto the bridge. The solo blast on the first pitch of the inning from Josh Edgin bounced off the Dunkin' Donuts sign in right and put the Nats back on top 7-6 after seven and half:
Bryce Harper (3-for-3, 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, BB) today at NYM has set career high for total bases in a single game with 10.— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) April 20, 2013
• Harper's Second HR:
Tyler Clippard came back out for the bottom of the inning. Marlon Byrd K'd swinging over a 1-2 change/invisiball and Clippard pitched around a one-out walk to end a scoreless eighth with the help of a sliding catch by Jayson Werth on a line drive to right by pinch hitter Mike Baxter. 7-6 Nats after eight. LaTroy Hawkins retired the Nationals in order in the top of the ninth and Rafael Soriano came out looking for save no.6 of 2013. "Pitch it, Soriano, pitch it, Soriano! Strike him out, Soriano, strike him out, Soriano!" The Nats' closer went to a full count with Justin Turner and got a fly to right for out no.1. ONE!! Daniel Murphy got ahead 3-1, and grounded out to first. TWO!!! David Wright? Two-out walk. John Buck stepped in with two out, and grounded into a force at short. Ballgame.
Work's done! Untuck that jersey, son!!
Nationals win, 7-6 final.
Nationals now 10-7.