Gio Gonzalez was (0-1) with seven no-decisions in his last eight starts before tonight's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Nationals Park. Washington's 2012 21-game winner was (3-3) overall on the year and winless since May 5th before earning a curly-W tonight, in spite of the fact that he put up a 2.18 ERA over the stretch of eight outings and 53 2/3 IP in which he held opposing hitters to a .174/.258/.274 line. Gonzalez got some early run support tonight, however, in the form of a five-run third inning and the Nationals held on for a 7-5 win over the NL West-leading D-Backs in the first game of three to be played this week.
On a night that began with the temperature around 90° at 7:00 pm, Gonzalez held the Diamondbacks scoreless through five innings. Gonzalez started the sixth at 72 pitches. After a one-out double by Aaron Hill and back-to-back singles by Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero brought Arizona's first run around, the Nats' left-hander got out of trouble and stranded two runners at the end of a 19-pitch inning that had him up to 91 overall. He came back out for the seventh and gave up a leadoff single. After the runner moved into scoring position on a groundout, the Nationals went to the pen for Drew Storen, who allowed another run to score before he finished the seventh with the Nats still up 6-3.
Davey Johnson liked what he saw from his left-handed starter, who gave up nine hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings of work, though Gonzalez wasn't necessarily at his best. "Gio was fine," Johnson told reporters after the game. "Pretty hot night and he pitched good. He was still throwing pretty good when I took him out, but after the rough inning before, I didn't want to go too far with him. But the bullpen has usually been pretty good, but here," the 70-year-old Nationals' manager said with a laugh, "we're not used to having a big lead."
The lead came courtesy of a big bottom of the third inning. Kurt Suzuki walked to start the frame, took second on a sac bunt and scored on a Denard Span single to center. After Anthony Rendon singled to put two runners on for Jayson Werth, D-Backs' starter Trevor Cahill gave up an RBI single on a 1-2 sinker the Nats' right field sent through short. Adam LaRoche stepped in next and got all of an 0-2 change that Cahill probably regretted and hit a three-run blast that made it 5-0 early.
"I liked the way the guys swung the bat and that was good," Davey Johnson said after the Nationals connected for 11 hits and seven runs. The Nationals scored a run on a two-out error in the eighth and the Diamondbacks put one up on Rafael Soriano in the ninth, but the home team held on for the win. Denard Span went 1 for 5. Rendon 2 for 5. Werth 2 for 2 with two walks and LaRoche 3 for 4 with his 11th home run. Johnson was asked about Werth's health after the game, after the 34-year-old outfielder left Sunday's game early with a groin injury and looked haggard at times on Tuesday night, particularly on an RBI line drive to right by Miguel Montero with two down in the ninth.
Asked if he was worried about Werth tonight, Johnson joked, "I worry about him all the time. I mean, it's been that kind of year. He's had a lot of little injuries and that one lasted about a month. But we need him in there."
"I don't think he's 100%," the Nationals' manager admitted, "I mean, he probably catches that ball in the ninth if he's not a little ginger." As for how Johnson's judging whether or not his outfielder can play, the skipper said he's going by what Werth tells him. "He said he's had it before and it was worse and he could play through it, so that's good enough for me.
"But, he'll be all right and [Ryan Zimmerman] will be in there tomorrow." Zimmerman had a planned day off on Tuesday so he could rest his surgically-repaired shoulder which Johnson said bothered the third baseman last week.
Overall, though it wasn't an exceptional start by Gio Gonzalez, or a great night for the bullpen, the offense did enough to get the win. "[Gonzalez's] location wasn't real good..." Johnson said, "but he's got such good stuff, but he occasionally flies open and leaves that ball up and I mean, I hear it the whole game, 'Stay back, Gio! Stay back!' But, that's what his ninth start before he got a win? That was big." And he got support, which Johnson was happy to see.
"I thought we were a little more aggressive, which I like," he said, "Not quite as aggressive as they are -- they come out of the dugout swinging. But we'll get to that point. The tension in the clubhouse is because guys aren't doing the things they're capable of doing. If they were doing the things they were capable of doing we'd have a really fun clubhouse. But it's just going to take a few hits. A few guys gets a few hits and we'll be off and running."
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