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Washington Nationals' Sunday Lineup vs Pirates: Gio Gonzalez Looks To Bounce Back From Rough Outing In Atlanta

Gio Gonzalez had a hard time explaining what went wrong last time out in Atlanta's Turner Field, but he looks to bounce back from that start with a strong outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates today in the series finale in PNC Park. Gio Gonzalez vs Wandy Rodriguez at 1:35 pm EST.

Al Bello

Gio Gonzalez was frustrated after his last start in Atlanta's Turner Field. It was the second outing of his last three in which he didn't get to the fifth inning. In between those brief starts he had a dominant game against Cincinnati in which he he allowed just one hit (a home run) and one run total in eights innings over which he threw a season-high 112 pitches. In each of the shorter, four inning outings he was up to 90 pitches after four (90 and 96, respectively), giving up a combined 12 hits, nine walks and 10 ER to the New York Mets and Braves. The last start really seemed to bother the Nats' 27-year-old, 2012 21-game winner, who wasn't exactly at a loss for words as much as at a loss for an explanation.

"Today's one of those things you just can't explain," a visibly flustered Gonzalez told reporters after the loss in Atlanta. "You either attack the strike zone or you don't. You get nine strikeouts and five walks. Then they make some good contact. Then they [get] broken bat hits. It's just one of those games you just can't explain."

The Braves' hitters had Gonzalez baffled. As he explained it, the 24 batters he faced altered their approach throughout the four innings he was on the mound. "They were being aggressive," Gonzalez said, "then all of a sudden they weren't. It's just they were mixing it up. I made some great pitches that they put some wood on it. They were finding hits, some way, somehow."

"He looked like he was going right after them," Davey Johnson said, offering his own more direct take on what went wrong for his left hander, "And obviously he wasn't keeping the ball down or hitting his spots. They hit a couple balls hard and scored a few runs off him, then he got a little bit wilder. Just a tough outing for him. You know, when you pitch you've got to hit your spots, you've got to make good pitches. He just didn't do it."

Gonzalez managed to strike out nine Braves' hitters, but efficiency was clearly an issue for the lefty. "He punched out a lot of guys," Johnson said, "but a lot of them were full counts or he wasted a lot of pitches on a lot of hitters."

The Nationals' starter was (2-1) in March/April last season with a 1.82 ERA, 12 walks (3.64 BB/9) and 34 Ks (10.31 K/9) in five starts and 29.2 IP in the first month of his first year with Washington after the trade from Oakland in late 2011.

Gonzalez takes the mound this afternoon at 1:35 pm EST with a (2-2) record in six starts and 32.0 IP over which he has a 5.34 ERA, 18 walks (5.06 BB/9) and 36 Ks (10.13 K/9). Can he bounce back from the rough outing in Atlanta to help the Nats take two of three on the road from Pittsburgh? Here's the lineup that will try to help him beat the Pirates this afternoon: