Gio Gonzalez took the mound tonight in the nation's capital after a less-than-stellar start in Atlanta, Georgia's Turner Field last time out which saw the 28-year-old left-hander give up nine hits, four walks and six runs in six innnings of work in a 10-2 loss to the Braves.
Back in Nationals Park, however, he was facing the St. Louis Cardinals, against whom he was (1-1) with a 1.13 ERA over 16 IP in two career starts in which he allowed three walks (1.69 BB/9), struck out 14 batters (7.88 K/9) and held opposing hitters to a .200/.241/.273 line.
Gonzalez held the Cardinals to one run on four hits in seven innings tonight in Nationals Park, but received just one run of support through six innings. In the bottom of the seventh, with the scored tied at 1-1, the Nationals added two more on 22-year-old Cards' starter Michael Wacha, who'd surrendered just one to that point on a two-out, third inning home run by Nationals' third baseman Anthony Rendon.
Nationals' skipper Matt Williams turned to the bullpen at that point, ending Gonzalez's fourth start of the 2014 season after 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 101 pitches, 65 strikes, 6/5 GO/FO. After the Cards scored a run in the fourth with three straight hits off the Nats' left-hander, Gonzalez retired eleven straight batters, striking out four.
Three of the four hits he allowed tonight came in consecutive at bats in the fourth when Cards' first baseman Allen Craig doubled and scored on the second of two back-to-back singles hit by Yadier Molina and Mark Ellis.
"They got guys on base and they're a good-hitting club and they do things right," manager Matt Williams said. "So, they get a leadoff guy on second base and got him to third, but [Gonzalez] got out of there with one [run allowed], so that's good. He was aggressive in the strike zone. Good fastball tonight, threw his curve ball occasionally to keep them off-balance."
Williams went to Tyler Clippard in the eighth, then lifted the 29-year-old right-hander 26 pitches later with runners on second and third and one out. Jon Jay doubled, Matt Carpenter walked, and both moved into scoring position when Jhonny Peralta grounded out to end a 12-pitch at bat that stretched Clippard to Williams' limit for the reliever.
"Just a lot of pitches," Williams explained, "and Holliday's numbers are not as good against Drew. It's just a lot. If we want [Clippard] available for tomorrow, he's going to run into 30+ [pitches] and it's just not a favorable matchup. 1 for  off of Clip. Better matchup off of Drew [1 for 7, 3 Ks] and the ability to potentially have [Clippard] tomorrow too."
Storen needed just one pitch to retire Holliday on a weak pop to first baseman Adam LaRoche and four more to get an inning-ending groundout to short out of Allen Craig.
"Good. Aggressive," Williams said, assessing Storen's outing. "Threw his fastball where he wanted to and that's important for him."
Having Storen available when Clippard struggled is a luxury Williams took advantage of in a tight game with the Cardinals.
"Drew has closed before," the first-year skipper said. "So he understands those types of situations. He's been the guy in the ninth inning and he's comfortable in the seventh, eighth or ninth. And I would imagine there would be a time this year when [Rafael Soriano's] thrown three in a row and not available where Drew will have to close it out too, so he's ready to take the ball at any time."
Soriano was available and took the ball tonight and after letting a runner on, started an game-ending 1-6-3 on a grounder back to the mound.