Washington Nationals Rewind: Nats Drop Series Opener To Cleveland Indians In Progressive Field

Jason Miller

Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson said his starter wasn't at his best and the Nats' offense struggled against a strong pitcher as Gio Gonzalez and Justin Masterson battled tonight in Progressive Field in a game that ended on a walk-off fielder's choice in the ninth.

Gio Gonzalez was still undefeated in his career against the Cleveland Indians' after the Washington Nationals' loss tonight, but the Nats were still a struggling offensive team, so it was a no-decision in the loss that kept Gonzalez's flawless record in tact at (5-0) vs the franchise and (4-0) in Progressive Field. Indians' starter Justin Masterson dominated the visiting team in the first game of this weekend's three-game AL rules Interleague series. Masterson, the 28-year-old '06 Red Sox' 2nd Round pick, acquired by the Indians in the 2009 trade that sent Victor Martinez to Boston, walked four, struck out 10 and threw 113 pitches in seven innings of work in which he held the Nationals' hitters to a run on two hits. The only run he allowed scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch in the third. The two hits the Nats got off the Indians' starter were the only two they managed all night as right-handed relievers Cody Allen and Joe Smith held the Nationals at bay through eight and half to set up the walk-off winner in the home-half of the ninth.

"[Gio Gonzalez] had great stuff, threw a heck of a ballgame, kept us in it. Unfortunately we just didn't get much going." - Davey Johnson on Gio Gonzalez vs the Indians

Gio Gonzalez threw a career-high 127 pitches in seven innings on the mound, giving up three hits, four walks and one earned run on a home run by Ryan Raburn in the bottom of the fourth. The Nats' lefty K'd eight and kept it tied at 1-1 through seven. Tyler Clippard walked a tightrope in the eighth, loading the bases with one down before retiring Mark Reynolds (swinging K) and Michael Brantley (line drive to Denard Span) to keep it tied after eight innings in the Indians' home. Back-to-back singles in the bottom of the ninth put Fernando Abad in a tough spot though, and a sharp grounder to first by Jason Kipnis was enough to bring in the winning run in spite of a Gold Glove-worthy effort and throw home by Adam LaRoche to make the play at the plate close.


Davey Johnson didn't think Gio Gonzalez was at his best tonight in Cleveland. "It wasn't one of his best," the 70-year-old Nats' manager said, "I mean, I had to take him to a whole lot of pitches, I don't know how many he had, four or five walks. But he had great stuff, threw a heck of a ballgame, kept us in it. Unfortunately we just didn't get much going. We had the right guys up during the ballgame to get something going, just couldn't get it going."

Ryan Zimmerman K'd looking with one down and runners on second and third in the top of the third and Adam LaRoche grounded out in the next at bat to strand two. Zimmerman struck out again in the fifth after Denard Span singled and stole second with two down leaving the team 0 for 3 with RISP on the night. "We had the right guys up with runners in scoring position and less than two outs," Johnson said, "and we didn't put the ball in play. We've got to do better than that."

"Everybody has their own style of hitting. And some of the hitters are very patient and looking for pitches. I prefer to be more aggressive." - Davey Johnson on the Nats' hitters

The Nationals' skipper did give Justin Masterson some props. "He had a pretty good sinking fastball," Johnson explained, "and he moved it around. I didn't think his breaking ball was that great, but we certainly didn't hit it. But, a tough pitcher, got to give him credit." As for his own hitters, and their approach, Johnson said, "Everybody has their own style of hitting. And some of the hitters are very patient and looking for pitches. I prefer to be more aggressive. But that's who we are, so..."

The Nationals are 33-33 after the loss. They have Jordan Zimmermann on the hill tomorrow afternoon in Progressive Field.

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