Gio Gonzalez Fan Club Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: Gio Gonzalez issued his first walk of the night to Pittsburgh Pirates' catcher Russell Martin with two down in the top of the third, pushing rookie outfielder Gregory Polanco into scoring position at second and Polanco scored when Bucs' center fielder Starling Marte doubled to left in the at bat that followed. 1-0 Pittsburgh. Martin and Marte then came around too when Gaby Sanchez sent a two-run single through the left side to make it 3-0 Pirates early in the second game of three with the Washington Nationals in D.C.
The Nationals finally got on the board in the bottom of the eighth with rookie outfielder Michael Taylor walking in a pinch hit appearance against Pirates' lefty Tony Watson, going first-to-third™ on a Denard Span single and scoring on a Kevin Frandsen bloop hit to right.
Adam LaRoche stepped in with one on and two-out after a DP grounder off Anthony Rendon's bat and tied things up at 3-3 with his 18th home run of the season, which was the first by a left-handed hitter off Watson this season.
Bryce Harper walked to start the Nats' ninth, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a walk-off, ground-rule double to right by Wilson Ramos! #HORNSUP!! Ballgame.
4. Winless Gonzalez: Gio Gonzalez, 28, entered tonight's start winless in five second-half outings, having gone (0-4) with the Washington Nationals 1-4 in his turns in the rotation since July 20th.
In those starts, the Nats' lefty has put up a 5.47 ERA, a 2.76 FIP, 12 walks (4.38 BB/9) and 29 Ks (10.58 K/9) in 24 ⅔ IP, over which opposing hitters have put up a .280/.364/.388 line against him. Gonzalez hadn't won a start since he beat the Chicago Cubs with eight scoreless innings of work on the mound in the nation's capital on July 5th.
Gonzalez had been out of the game before the fifth inning in two of his last three starts, including last weekend's outing against the Braves in Atlanta, GA's Turner Field.
The left-hander lasted just 4 ⅔ IP last Sunday night, throwing a total of 111 pitches in that relatively brief outing in which he gave up six hits, four walks and two earned runs.
Nationals' skipper Matt Williams talked about Gonzalez's struggles with his command after that night's 3-1 loss to the Braves.
"The games that he's pitched really well in," the Nationals' first-year manager explained, as quoted by MASN's Courtney Lofgren, "it's been early fastball command and the other pitches for strikes and certainly the changeup down-and-out of the zone when it needs it to be. Tonight, he didn't have that as well, so he relied more on his fastball. He had a good fastball, but just way too many pitches."
Gonzalez was back home in the nation's capital tonight, where the third-year National was (3-3) through nine starts this season with a 4.60 ERA, 2.62 FIP, 18 walks (3.45 BB/9) and 47 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 47 IP in which visiting hitters have put up a combined .247/.322/.324 line against him.
Tonight's outing was Gonzalez's fifth against the Pirates in his career.
In the previous four starts, he was (2-0) with a 3.28 ERA, 12 walks (4.38 BB/9) and 28 Ks (10.21 K/9) in 24 ⅔ IP, holding Pirates' hitters to a combined .226/.314/.409 line.
1st: Pirates' leadoff man Josh Harrison battled for six pitches before popping up to short. Gregory Polanco K'd swinging through a 92 mph 2-2 fastball. Russell Martin fell behind 0-2, but ripped a fastball through short. Starling Marte stepped in with one on and two out and sent a low liner through short for a second straight single. Gaby Sanchez worked the count full, and lined out to right field to end a 27-pitch frame.
2nd: Pedro Alvarez K'd swinging over a sinking 3-2 two-seamer. Jayson Nix K'd swinging at a 1-2 curve. Travis Snider stepped in with two out and K'd swinging at a 2-2 change low and in. 16-pitch frame. 43 total after two.
3rd: Jeff Locke took a 1-2 fastball for a called third strike. Josh Harrison lined a one-out single to left on a 1-0 fastball, but was forced out at second on a weak roller up the middle off Gregory Polanco's bat. Russell Martin stepped in with one on and two out, worked the count full and walked. Starling Marte lined a double to left to bring Polanco in and make it 1-0 Pirates. Gaby Sanchez lined a first-pitch fastball to left to bring in Martin and Marte and make it a 3-0 lead. Pedro Alvarez's groundout to second ended a 22-pitch frame that left Gonzalez at 65 total after three.
4th: Jayson Nix popped out to Adam LaRoche to start the Pirates' fourth. Travis Snider reached safely on an infield single with one down. Jeff Locke took a called strike three trying to bunt on a 2-2 fastball. Josh Harrison was first-pitch swinging and he grounded into a force at second to end a 14-pitch fourth. 79 pitches overall after four.
5th: Gregory Polanco grounded weakly to a charging Danny Espinosa at second. Russell Martin worked the count full and walked for the second time tonight and the sixth time in 16 career plate appearances against Gonzalez. Starling Marte sent a fly ball out to the track in left-center for the second out of the frame. Gaby Sanchez singled through short for a two-out hit that put two on in front of Pedro Alvarez, but the Pirates' third baseman K'd looking at a 2-2 fastball outside to end a 23-pitch frame that left Gonzalez at 102 overall.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 102 P, 65 S, 4/1 GO/FO.
3. Locke vs Washington: Left-hander Jeff Locke, 26, was one of three players, along with OF Gorkys Hernandez and RHP Charlie Morton, who was dealt by Atlanta to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the June 2009 trade that brought currently DL'd Nationals' outfielder Nate McLouth to the Braves.
Locke, an '06 2nd Round pick out of North Conway, New Hampshire, made his MLB debut two years after the deal on September 10, 2011.
He faced the Washington Nationals for the first time last season, giving up three hits, three walks and four runs, three earned in five innings pitched at home in PNC Park in a 5-4 loss last May in which he received no decision.
On the year, before taking the mound in Nationals Park for the first time in the second game of three for the Pirates in D.C., the 6' 0'' southpaw was (4-3) with a 3.98 ERA, a 4.13 FIP, 17 walks (1.78 BB/9) and 57 Ks (5.97 K/9) in 13 starts and 86 IP, over which he held opposing hitters to a combined .271/.309/.416 line.
On the road, Locke was (1-2) in five starts with a 4.28 ERA, a 5.03 FIP and a .305/.347/.525 line against in 33 ⅔ as opposed to his 3.78 ERA, 3.55 FIP and .236/.280/.335 line against in eight starts and 52 ⅓ IP at home in Pittsburgh, where he was (3-1).
Locke's sixth start on the road this season and his first in the nation's capital, began with a scoreless, 19-pitch frame in which he pitched around a one-out single by Kevin Frandsen.
Ian Desmond walked to start the Nats' second, but got himself picked off trying to get a good jump. Two quick outs followed in a 12-pitch frame that left the Pirates' starter at 31 pitches total after two.
Given a 3-0 lead to work with, Locke threw a quick, 16-pitch, 1-2-3 third that left him at 47 pitches total after three scoreless. He needed just 17 pitches to retire the side in order in the fourth, finishing four scoreless at 64 pitches.
Ian Desmond singled to center to start the Nats' fifth. Bryce Harper lined to left-center in the next at bat, but a diving Travis Snider robbed him of an extra base hit. Wilson Ramos singled to center with one down, putting two runners on in front of Danny Espinosa, who took a 2-2 fastball for a called strike three. Scott Hairston stepped in for Gio Gonzalez and K'd swinging to end a 14-pitch frame that left Locke at 78 overall.
Kevin Frandsen reached first base on a one-out throwing error by Pedro Alvarez, but Anthony Rendon lined out to left for out no.2 of the Nationals' sixth. Adam LaRoche walked to get Ian Desmond to the plate with two on and two out and that was it for Locke...
• Jeff Locke's Line: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 93 P, 55 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
2. Turning Point(s): Gio Gonzalez was cruising, sort of, though his pitch count was up there, when a two-out walk to Pirates' catcher Russell Martin moved a runner into scoring position in the top of the third inning.
Back-to-back singles followed with Starling Marte and Gaby Sanchez sending ground balls through the left side to get Pittsburgh out to a 3-0 lead early in the second game of three in D.C.
Gonzalez didn't like home plate ump Mark Wegner's zone in the at bat with Martin, and the two-out rally happened quickly after the walk.
• 1. The Wrap-Up: Craig Stammen took over on the mound for the Nationals in the sixth and hit the first batter he faced, Jayson Nix. Travis Snider grounded into 4-6-3 DP on the next pitch from the Nats' reliever. A swinging K from the opposing pitcher wrapped up a quick, 10-pitch frame.
Pirates' right-hander Jared Hughes took over for Jeff Locke with two on and two out in the Nationals' sixth, and got a line drive to short from Nats' shortstop Ian Desmond to end the threat. 3-0 Pirates.
Craig Stammen needed just 12 pitches to set the Pirates down in orderd in the top of the seventh.
Jared Hughes came back out for more work in the Nationals' seventh and hit Bryce Harper in the first at bat, but doubled him up on a Wilson Ramos' grounder back to the mound. Danny Espinosa lined to center in the next at bat, but Starling Marte made a diving catch for the third out of the inning.
Craig Stammen came back out for a third inning of work in the top of the eighth. Gaby Sanchez singled to center with one down, but Neil Walker, who entered the game as a defensive replacement, grounded out to first and started a 3-6-3 inning-ending DP.
Tony Watson started the bottom of the eighth with a walk to rookie Nats' outfielder Michael Taylor. Denard Span's single through the right side sent Taylor from first-to-third™. Kevin Frandsen followed with a bloop single to right that brought Taylor in and the Nationals finally broke through. 3-1 Pirates. Anthony Rendon grounded into a 6-4-3 DP for the first two out of the frame. Adam LaRoche stepped in with two out ... and took Tony Watson deep to right for a two-out, two-run home run that tied things up at 3-3 after eight.
Matt Thornton retired the Pirates in order in a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the ninth.
Justin Wilson took over for the Pirates in the bottom of the ninth and walked Bryce Harper to start the frame. A wild pitch moved Harper into scoring position at second and a walk-off, ground-rule double to right by Wilson Ramos won it!!! Ballgame. 4-3 final.
Nationals now 68-53