Most of the excitement for the Washington Nationals in tonight's game took place in the dugout where Gio Gonzalez dealt with a headache before tonight's start and hitting coach Rick Eckstein "almost caught on fire" according to Nats' manager Davey Johnson. "[Eckstein] went down there and he started talking to one of the hitters who was standing close to the fire and he was standing close to the fire," the Nationals' skipper explained, "and it just fried... his pant leg's all burnt out."
Asked if former Met Roger McDowell, who loved a good "hot foot" was around, Johnson laughed. "No. That was a severe hot foot there. Anyway, a lot going on in that dugout." In addition to the potential fire hazards, the Nats' starter came down with a headache before the start of tonight's game.
"We were kind of hoping he could make it," Johnson told reporters, "Because right after he finished warming up, he got a headache and we were worried about him. He got a couple aspirin and went out there. We were really worried because it was a bad headache. Probably the cold weather. Being from Miami, he's not used to the cool weather. But he pitched a heck of a ballgame. He made pitches when he had to. He threw a lot of pitches one inning, but other than that he was good. Again, if it wasn't a cold night I probably would have gone further with him."
Gonzalez earned his first win of 2013 with a 6.0 inning outing in which he gave up just two hits and two walks, striking out five and throwing 91 pitches, 55 of them for strikes. And he hit his second major league home run, after asking Johnson before the AB if he should take the opposing pitcher, Kevin Slowey, deep. "Just get up there," Johnson told Gonzalez, and the Nats' starter took a first-pitch curve to left for his second home run in 73 major league at bats.
"He's going to be smiling whether he strikes out or gets a base hit or gets a walk or bunts somebody over," Johnson said, "He's smiling. And he's got a great attitude."
• Watch Gio's HR:
Gonzalez got some help from his catcher, Kurt Suzuki, who cut Juan Pierre down at second on an attempted steal after the Marlins' outfielder singled with two down in the third. "Both catchers are great catch and throw guys, [Suzuki] threw a perfect strike. It was great. Not letting anything get going. It was outstanding."
Nats' right-hander Drew Storen worked the eighth tonight and Rafael Soriano saved his second game of the year in the ninth. The Nationals' manager was impressed with his reliever. "I thought [Storen] threw the ball great today," he said, "He threw some good located fastballs and wasn't trying to overthrow, just made some good pitches. The back-to-back shutouts set the stage for a potential sweep in Game 3 of 162 with the Miami Marlins tomorrow afternoon in Nats Park. Asked about how his starters tried to one-up each other last year, Johnson said that Stephen Strasburg and Gonzalez set the stage for tomorrow's starter, Jordan Zimmermann. "The bar is set for Zim," Johnson said, "But there's always that competition on good pitching staffs, and I don't see this year being any different."