Before Gio Gonzalez recorded an out in his last start this past Saturday afternoon in sunny Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium, the 29-year-old lefty and the Washington Nationals were down 2-0.
Miami Marlins' hitters jumped on Gonzalez early with three straight hits to start the game, two singles and a two-run double, that put the Nationals in a hole before they even came up to bat.
"'They were swinging early,'" Gonzalez told reporters, including Florida Today's David Jones, after the start.
"'The first three batters I must have thrown five pitches. That's just the way it is."
What frustrated Gonzalez more than the Marlins' hitters' aggresive approach were the two walks he issued later in the outing that led to Miami's third and fourth runs of the game scoring.
Gonzalez walked Marlins' outfielder Christian Yelich with one down in the third, and Yelich stole second in the next at bat before scoring on an RBI single by Marcell Ozuna.
One out later, a second walk to Fish catcher Jarrod Saltamacchia ended Gonzalez's start before the fourth run he was charged with crossed the plate:
"'The two walks was my biggest kind of (being) upset about the whole start. Those two walks, if I get ahead of those guys, it’s a different strike zone a different mentality of pitching. . . . I liked the way I attacked the strike zone, pounded, kept everything low we put down, we were working on those pitches.'"
Gonzalez managed to avoid giving up any early runs or issuing any free passes in a 1-2-3 first inning in start no.3 of the Spring this afternoon in Space Coast Stadium, where he and the Nationals took on the Detroit Tigers.
Yoenis Cespedes and Aaron Westlake went down swinging for the first two outs of Gonzalez's second inning of work, but Tigers' shortstop Hernan Perez worked the count full and walked with two down.
Perez took third when catcher James McCann doubled to left, over the third base bag and by a diving Ian Stewart, but Tigers' third baseman Josh Wilson went down swinging for out no.3, stranding both runners as Gonzalez struck out the side for his second scoreless frame and fourth K of the game.
Rajai Davis doubled to center off Gonzalez with one down in the top of the third inning. Davis took third base on a groundout to first by Tigers' center fielder Anthony Gose, but was stranded there when J.D. Martinez grounded out, ending Gonzalez's third scoreless inning of work.
Another 1-2-3 frame in the fourth ended with Gonzalez's fifth K of the day. That was it for the left-hander's third start.
Gio Gonzalez's Line: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 62 P, 45 S, 5/1 GO/FO.
Four innings on 62 pitches for @GioGonzalez47. Matt Thornton takes over to pitch the fifth for the #Nats.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 19, 2015
Tigers' starter Anibal Sanchez matched Gonzalez with four scoreless innings, setting ten straight Nationals down after back-to-back one-out singles by Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper in the first.
Matt Thornton threw a quick, 1-2-3 fifth after taking over on the mound for the Nats.
Tanner Roark struck the first two batters he faced out before J.D. Martinez singled to center field with two down in the sixth. A high pop over the infield off Cespedes' bat ended a scoreless frame for the Nats' right-hander. Still 0-0.
Hernan Perez and James McCann both reached on one-out grounders to deep in the hole at short that Ian Desmond reached but couldn't handle.
Roark stranded both runners, however, striking out Josh Wilson and popping up Andrew Romine to end the top of the seventh and his second scoreless inning of work.
Aaron Barrett gave up a two-out single to J.D. Martinez in the top of the eighth, but Cespedes grounded into a force at second for out no.3.
Matt Grace took over in the ninth inning, and worked around a two-out error for a scoreless frame.
Tony Gwynn, Jr. tripled to start the Nationals' ninth inning, lining to right and hustling around to put the winning run 90 ft from home, but he was stranded there as Michael Taylor (0 for 4, 4 Ks) struck out and Emmanuel Burriss sent a fly to left to end the threat.
Rafael Martin completed a scoreless inning of work in the top of the tenth.
Clint Robinson worked a 13-pitch walk out of Tigers' reliever Jose Valdez in the first at bat of the Nats' tenth. Wilmer Difo took over at first base, moved up to second on a one-out single by backup catcher Dan Butler and took third on a lineout to right by Tyler Moore. Mike Carp stepped in with a shot to drive in the winning run, but struck out to end the game.