Nationals 3-0 over Brewers in Miller Park: Gio Gonzalez with six scoreless for win

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals took two straight from the Atlanta Braves to end their six-game homestand on a high note and beat the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers tonight to make it three in-a-row. Nationals 3-0 final in Miller Park.

Which Way To Auburndale Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Did you know that Anthony Rendon walked more than he K'd in college? It's true, you can look it up. The Nationals 24-year-old third baseman took a one-out walk from Milwaukee Brewers' right-hander Matt Garza in the top of the third tonight in Miller Park and after taking third on a single by Jayson Werth, he came in to score on a three-run home run to center by Adam LaRoche that gave the Washington Nationals a 3-0 lead early in the series opener in Wisconsin.

Gio Gonzalez threw six scoreless innings in his second start back off the DL. Aaron Barret, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano locked it down.

3-0 Nationals final.

4. Gio takes Wisconsin: Gio Gonzalez's last outing was a success, in that after a DL stint and two rehab starts, the 28-year-old lefty reported no issues related to the inflammation in his left shoulder which led to the first trip to the Disabled List in his major league career. Gonzalez gave up five hits, three walks and four runs, all earned in five innings pitched in that start, in which he threw 93 pitches, receiving no decision in what ended up a 6-5 win in Nationals Park.

"I credit our pitching coach Steve McCatty and Matt Williams for letting me go out there and build my confidence back up there..." -Gio Gonzalez on getting sent back out for the fifth

"He was okay," Nationals' manager Matt Williams said after the game.

"I think he felt fine, which is the most important thing. He wanted to go out for one more inning, but we couldn't let him do that. So I think overall his health is good. He got into one tough inning, but other than that he pitched pretty good."

Gonzalez, pulling positives from a start he admitted was not his "strongest outing" pointed to the fact that Williams and Nats' Pitching Coach Steve McCatty decided to send him back out for the fifth after a long, rough fourth inning.

"That fifth inning made me feel confident again," Gonzalez said. "Gave me that boost of confidence that I needed."

The outing against the Astros left Gonzalez with a (3-4) record, a 4.85 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 23 walks (3.72 BB/9) and 59 Ks (9.54 K/9) in 10 starts and 55 ⅔ IP so far in 2014. Tonight in Milwaukee, Wisconsin's Miller Park, the veteran of seven major league seasons was taking on the Brewers for the third time in his career.

In his two previous outings against the current NL Central leaders, Gonzalez was (1-0) before tonight, with a 2.77 ERA, six walks (4.15 BB/9) and nine Ks (6.23 K/9) in 13 IP over which Brewers' hitters put up a combined .182/.296/.227 line.

In one start in Miller Park before tonight, Gonzalez gave up five hits and five runs, four earned in a six-inning outing in 2012. Tonight in Milwaukee, his second start in Wisconsin began with a fly to center field...

1st: Denard Span settled in under a fly to center off Rickie Weeks' bat. Ryan Braun went down swinging at a 2-2 curve in the dirt. Brewers' backstop Jonathan Lucroy singled through the right side on a 1-2 curve for a two-out hit. Carlos Gomez fell behind 0-2 quickly, and grounded into a force at second on a 1-2 changeup, ending an 18-pitch first by Gonzalez.

2nd: Aramis Ramirez flew to left for the first out of the Brewers' second. Kris Davis grounded out to third for the second of two quick outs. Mark Reynolds went down swinging at a 3-2 change outside. 13-pitch frame, 31 total after two.

3rd: Brewers' shortstop Jean Segura lined a 91 mph 3-2 fastball to center for a leadoff hit in the home-half of the third inning. Matt Garza bunted Segura over/gave up an out. Segura stole third with Rickie Weeks at the plate and Weeks walked to put runners on the corner. Ryan Braun K'd swinging at an 0-2 curve way out of the zone low, leaving it up to Jonathan Lucroy, who battled for 11 pitches before taking ball four and walking to load the bases. Carlos Gomez stepped in with three on and two out and flew out to left to end a 31-pitch frame, after which Gonzalez was at 62 overall.

4th: Aramis Ramirez went down on a check-swing strike three. Khris Davis grounded out to third for out no.2. Mark Reynolds drew a two-out walk. Reynolds stole second with Jean Segura up, and took third on a wild pitch, but he was stranded there when Segura popped out to end an 18-pitch frame. 80 pitches overall.

5th: Matt Garza grounded back to the mound. Rickie Weeks K'd swinging at a nasty 2-2 change. Ryan Braun lined a two-out double to left field on a 2-0 change low in the zone. Jonathan Lucroy's fly to center brought a 16-pitch fifth to an end. 96 pitches in five scoreless.

6th: Carlos Gomez grounded out to third to start the Brewers' sixth. Aramis Ramirez walked with one down on Gonzalez's 108th pitch, but he was doubled up on a 6-4-3 DP off of Khris Davis's bat. 18-pitch frame. 114 pitches total in six innings.

Gio Gonzalez's Line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 Ks, 114 P, 68 S, 7/4 GO/FO.

3. Garza vs the Nats: In four June starts before tonight's, 30-year-old Brewers' right-hander Matt Garza put up a 2.00 ERA, a 2.94 FIP, eight walks (2.67 BB/9) and 14 Ks (4.67 K/9) in 27 IP, over which he's held opposing hitters to a combined .243/.301/.346 line. Two of those starts were at home in Miller Park, where the veteran starter has a 2.89 ERA (as opposed to a 5.49 ERA away from Milwaukee) a 3.39 FIP (3.92 away) and a .227/.286/.362 line against, while opposing hitters have a .261/.339/.389 line against him in his road outings.

Garza was making his fifth career start opposite the Nationals, against whom he was (0-1) with a 6.41 ERA, eight walks (3.66 BB/9) and 23 Ks (10.52 K/9) in 19  ⅔ IP in his career before tonight, over which Nationals' hitters put up a .317/.378/.476 line against him.

In the first game of the Nats' three-game set in Milwaukee, Garza started the evening with a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.

The first two Nationals in the second reached base with Adam LaRoche singling to left and Ryan Zimmerman drawing a walk. Ian Desmond's line-drive single to left loaded the bases, but Danny Espinosa K'd looking at a full-count fastball outside for out no.1. Jose Lobaton went down on a check-swing strike three on a 2-2 slider in the dirt. Gio Gonzalez? Grounder to short and a force at second. 21-pitch frame, 31 after two.

Anthony Rendon walked with one down in the third and took third on a line drive single to right by Jayson Werth. Adam LaRoche stepped up with runners on the corners and hit one out to center for a 3-run blast and a 3-0 lead. Garza's 21-pitch frame left him at 52 pitches after three.

A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth left Garza at 62, trailing 3-0. Two quick outs in the fifth gave the Brewers' starter seven straight outs, but Jayson Werth's one-out infield single broke that streak of retired batters. Adam LaRoche's grounder to first ended an 11-pitch inning after which he was up to 73 pitches.

After a 15-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth, Garza was up to 88 pitches with 10 of 11 Nationals set down. A 16-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh left Garza at 104 total. 13 of 14 set down.

Matt Garza's Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 104 P, 69 S, 9/5 GO/FO.

2. Creating Opps: It's something Matt Williams has talked about all season as the Nationals as a team have struggled with runners in scoring position and struggled to get men on base at times.

"We want to create those opportunities, we've been talking about it all year, right? So create the opportunities and then deliver on it..." -Matt Williams on Nats' approach on offense

The Nats were shut out in the first game of four with the Braves this past Thursday night and beaten 6-4 on Friday, but on Saturday and Sunday the bounced back with 3-0 and 4-1 wins to earn a split with their NL East rivals.

The difference? No difference really, just things working out when they created opportunities as far as Nats' skipper Matt Williams saw it.

"We want to create those opportunities, we've been talking about it all year, right?" Williams asked rhetorically.

"So create the opportunities and then deliver on it and in the last two days we've done that really well. Last night and certainly today, base hits with guys on second base and you add one at a time and it gives you an opportunity to win the game."

The Nationals didn't change anything about their approach, which the first-year skipper and former major league slugger said was actually the key.

"It's staying with the same one," he explained. "It's easy to get away from it and say, 'Boy, I can get us two here with a two-run homer,' when in fact to keep the line moving and get the single with the guy on second base is even more important because eventually if you do that then that hanging breaking ball becomes a two-run homer sometimes if you have that right approach and I think the last couple of days they've done it really well."

In the first game of Washington's three-game set in Milwaukee, the Nationals loaded the bases with no one out in the second, but came up empty.

Matt Garza gave up a walk and a single that put runners on the corners with one out in the third, and Adam LaRoche hit a full-count slider to center and over the painted yellow line for a 3-0 lead.

1. The Wrap-Up: Aaron Barrett took over on the mound for the Nationals in the Brewers' seventh and retired the side in order, striking out two in a 14-pitch frame.

Mike Fiers gave up a one-out single by Jayson Werth (3 for 4) in the top of the eighth, but after a walk to Adam LaRoche, he got a double play grounder out of Ryan Zimmerman. 3-0 Nats after seven and a ½ in Milwaukee.

Drew Storen took the mound in the bottom of the eighth. Rickie Weeks got sawn off on a grounder to second. Ryan Braun grounded out to short. Jonathan Lucroy grounded back to the mound to end a 9-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.

It was still tied after eight and a half... when... Tyler Clippard came out for the save opportunity since Rafael Soriano pitches in three straight games. Carlos Gomez worked the count full but K'd swinging. Aramis Ramirez was strikeout victim no.2. Khris Davis did too. Ballgame.

Nationals now 40-35

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