Before Monday afternoon's outing, Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez was (3-1) in four May starts with a 1.67 ERA, 3.47 FIP, eight walks (2.67 BB/9) and 21 Ks (7.00 K/9) in his last 27 innings on the mound. Today's was an anomalous outing, the 28-year-old left-hander said afterwards, in what had been a strong month for the 2012 21-game winner. Gonzalez gave up eight hits, four walks and four runs, all earned, in 5.2 IP in Nationals Park in which he threw 109 pitches overall in the 6-2 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles.
"Four starts in a row consistent," Gonzalez told reporters after the loss, "I mean, it seems pretty consistent to me. You're entitled to have a bad game once in a while. Not going to be perfect, but at the same time I felt like I was in the zone. I felt like I was attacking them. I felt like I was being where I wanted to be. Velocity was still up and that's a good-hitting team. You've got to give them their credit." Gonzalez pitched around walks in the first two innings and an error in the third, but in the fourth, the Orioles got to the Nationals' lefty.
A leadoff walk to Chris Davis and a single by Matt Wieters started the Orioles' fourth, and one out later O's infielder Yamaico Navarro worked the count full, after starting out down 0-2, and hit a high 94 mph fastball to left for an RBI single that tied the game at 1-1. "It was a fastball up and in, jam-shot," Gonzalez said of the pitch to Navarro, "And [he] found the hit. Like it is. It wasn't hit solid enough for us to make a play and it just landed right where it needed to be." After a sac bunt by Orioles' starter Jason Hammel put two runners in scoring position, Nick Markakis lined a first-pitch fastball to center to drive both runners in and make it a 3-1 game.
"That's basically it," Gonzalez said of the Navarro hit and the fourth as a whole, "It was just one bad inning. After that, if I could turn that page, I'd still be pitching the game."
"He just didn't go after them when he needed to," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game, "and left a lot of pitches up. I thought he had pretty good stuff, just it's a good-hitting ballclub, can't make mistakes to them. And that's what can happen." It didn't help that the Nationals wasted several chances to put runs up on Hammel.
Tyler Moore doubled in a run with one down in the second, but was stranded at second base two outs later. A leadoff double by Gio Gonzalez in the third was wasted. Denard Span tripled and scored the Nationals' second run of the game in the sixth, but Moore K'd swinging with two on and two out to end the inning. Roger Bernadina doubled to start the seventh and was still standing on second three outs later. The Nationals went 2 for 11 with RISP on the day and left six runners on base in the 6-2 loss.
Asked about the wasted opportunities against the Orioles, Davey Johnson said, "It's been kind of our M.O., but we're showing signs of coming out of it hopefully."
"We're down a couple pretty good players," Johnson contined, " and it's given an opportunity to some other guys that have been struggling. [Roger Bernadina] hit the ball hard today and [Tyler] Moore got a nice double. But I got a good report on [Danny] Espinosa, he's going to probably be ready to come back on Wednesday. He said he could pinch hit, but I told him in the game, we don't want to have a setback with the three days you've had off, do that and try to hold off on him. We were a little shorthanded on the bench, that makes it a little tougher."
Espinosa, who was diagnosed with a fracture in his wrist and a bone chip that was causing irritation, reportedly took batting practice before today's game:
Team doctor Wiemi Douoguih says Danny Espinosa felt good hitting today. Also gave a pitch-perfect definition of "bursitis."— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) May 27, 2013
While the Orioles collected 15 hits and six runs (and left 14 on base), Orioles' starter Jason Hammel held the Nationals, who were without Espinosa, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, etc. to two runs on eight hits.
"[Hammel] used both sides of the plate with his fastball," Johnson said, breaking down the opposing starter, "and threw some pretty good breaking balls and we just didn't get the big hit. I mean, we swung the bats okay, but not like we're capable of [swinging them]."
The absence of Bryce Harper, in particular, hurt the Nationals' offense. "Any time you're struggling a little bit offensively [and] you take out one of your better hitters it doesn't help," the Nats' manager said, "But certainly we have the talent. They're certainly capable, we're just not quite getting there."
Could Bryce Harper return from his knee issue any time soon to help spark the offense? "Doctors think maybe in a couple of days he might be able to DH," Johnson said, "so we'll see how he is tomorrow."