Gio Gonzalez was up to thirteen scoreless innings in a row on the mound over his last two starts when he got into trouble in the top of the fifth inning on Saturday night in Nationals Park. An 0-1 fastball to John Mayberry was up in the zone and it ended up in the left field bullpen. Mayberry's one-out solo blast tied the game up at 1-1. In the next two at bats, 1-0 and 2-1 fastballs to Cole Hamels and Cesar Hernandez ended up being hit for singles and a walk to Chase Utley loaded the bases for Philadelphia catcher Carlos Ruiz, whose three-run double gave the visiting Phillies a four-run lead.
Gonzalez threw 98 pitches in six innings in which he gave up nine hits and the four runs on Saturday night. "Gio just had that one inning where it looked like he just lost his command," Johnson told reporters after the Nats dropped a 5-4 decision. "The big thing was the walk to Utley and getting Ruiz up. He's been awfully hot with baserunners in scoring position. But till we gave up a run in the seventh I still thought we had a chance to come back on them. We had our opportunities, we just didn't capitalize."
Ian Krol replaced Gio Gonzalez in the top of the seventh, and gave up a leadoff double by Jimmy Rollins on a 1-1 change and a line drive to center on an 0-2 curve to Chase Utley, who brought Rollins around with the hit for what ended up being the winning run. "He's blown the shortstop [Rollins] away every time with fastballs," Johnson said when asked about Krol. "He threw one by him and then he comes back with a changeup and what did he give up, a little bloop hit to Utley. But he's still young. I don't think he knows what he wants to do. He just relies on the catcher. He's got a good arm. He's got good stuff. He'll put it all together."
The run Krol gave up made it 5-1 Phillies after six and a half.
Washington rallied in the bottom of the inning with Scott Hairston, Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman all singling to load the bases and knock Cole Hamels out. Jayson Werth grounded to third on an 0-1 fastball from Justin De Fratus and into a force at home for the first out, but Ian Desmond came through with a sac fly RBI and Bryce Harper singled to right off left-hander Cesar Jimenez to drive in two and make it a one-run game at 5-4. With the tying run at second, Wilson Ramos K'd looking at a low 1-2 slider that wasn't a strike (see no.7 below):
"He knew he missed it, you know," Davey Johnson said afterwards of home plate ump Jim Joyce's strike call. "But that's part of baseball. But we had a lot of chances and we had the right guys up, and we battled back. I was proud of them battling back. And even [Desmond] when we were down 5-1, he said, 'We're going to win this ballgame.'" Desmond had a chance to at least tie it up late, but after Ryan Zimmerman doubled to start the Nats' ninth, Werth and Desmond both flew out on the first pitch each saw from Phillies' closer Jonathan Papelbon.
"Werth got beat on a fastball in...," Johnson said, "which, he hasn't -- nobody has beat him in. And then Desi was late on a heater. You don't usually see those things happen late, but that was a good pitcher out there."
"When [Desmond] was up there I thought he was going to do something special," Johnson admitted. "But, it was a fun game for me. There's all kinds of strategy going on. You could hear the wood burning over on the other side and certainly burning on our side, but it just didn't happen." The biggest risk Phillies' skipper Ryne Sandberg took in the game came later in the ninth when he walked Bryce Harper with two down, putting the winning run on so his closer could face Wilson Ramos, whose groundout to short ended the game.
"I don't like putting the winning run on at any time," Johnson said when asked about Sandberg's decision, "and Ramos hit the heck out of it." Jimmy Rollins was out behind second waiting for it though and his throw to first ended the game and brought an end to the Nats' seven-game win streak.
"It was a fun game for me," the Nats' skipper said, "except we lost. With all the chess moves going on."
But the loss hurt, especially when the Cincinnati Reds had already beaten Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday afternoon. The Nats were 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position and they left 11 on base in a one-run loss.
"We're still fine," Johnson said, "We've just got to win the games. We've just got to keep winning. We're going to need a win tomorrow and then the next day and on down the road. Send a message to Atlanta when they come in."
• AUDIO: Nats Nightly w/ Federal Baseball's Doghouse:
AUDIO: #Nats Nightly = @NationalsDSP + @federalbaseball talking about the #Nats' 5-4 loss to the #Phillies: http://t.co/7dudxffxf0— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) September 15, 2013