After discussing the Washington Nationals' late-inning comeback and walk-off win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Nats' skipper Mattt Williams did talk after last night's game about another less-than-stellar start by Gio Gonzalez.
The 28-year-old left-hander threw 102 pitches in just five innings of work against the Pirates (20.4 per inning) and gave up seven hits, two walks and three earned runs before he was pinch hit for in the bottom of the fifth when the Nationals, who were trailing 3-0 at that point, had two runners on with two out when his spot came up.
The Nats didn't score in the fifth, but they came back late with Adam LaRoche's two-out, two-run home run in the eighth tying things up at 3-3 and sparing Gonzalez his 10th loss of the season.
After LaRoche tied it up, the Nats walked off on the Pirates in the bottom of the ninth with Wilson Ramos' ground-rule double to right lifting the Nationals to their second straight over Pittsburgh and their fifth straight win overall.
"Just one of those games," Gonzalez said afterwards. "You've just got sit back and just finally say, we catch a break, we got a no-decision and a win."
Nationals' manager Matt Williams was asked if Gonzalez's lack of command and high pitch counts in his last few starts were a sign that his left shoulder, which landed him on the DL earlier this season, was still an issue.
The first-year skipper said there have been no signs of a problem with the shoulder.
"He feels good," Williams assured reporters. "His velocity is good. He's complained of no pain or anything. It's just a question of command and that curveball is important for him. So he'll address it with [Steve McCatty] again and look for that arm slot and hopefully next time out he finds it early.
"We've seen that in his good outings, that he's had that, the ability to throw it for a strike when he wants to and down in the zone when he wants to, that makes him really effective."
When he's ineffective, and struggles to put batters away and keep his pitch count down, it's obviously a lack of command causing the problems Williams explained.
"The key for him is establishing ball over early and curveball command," he said.
"Tonight he didn't have that curveball command. So he'll continue to work on it and next time out hopefully he's got that, but his next pen will be really important for him to establish that slot and command with the curveball. If he doesn't have it, the other team can just eliminate it from their thought process. It makes it more difficult for him to get guys out. So he'll work hard on it next time he throws a pen."
Gonzalez talked openly about his high pitch counts and the work he's done to try to figure out what's causing him command problems.
"You've just got to keep battling through it," he said. "You try to take a little bit here and there from Doug [Fister] and [Stephen Strasburg] and everyone and the times you go out there and attack the strike zone, you get 25 pitches in the first inning. There are some guys that are going to battle you for 10 pitches, 12 pitches, and that's just how my luck's been going.
"They're fouling off 94, letter-high, it's just one of those things, you've got to bounce back and try to hit the bottom of the strike zone and when you make that adjustment they put it in play."
In six second-half starts after last night's, Gonzalez is (0-4) with a 5.46 ERA, a 2.56 FIP, 14 walks (4.25 BB/9) and 36 Ks (10.92 K/9) in 29 ⅔ IP, over which opposing hitters have put up a .287/.366/.383 line against him.
• We talked about Gonzalez's start, the Nats' comeback and more on last night's edition of Nats Nightly. Give a listen while you wait for this afternoon's game to begin...