5. Let Gio be Gio: Gio Gonzalez (shoulder) returned from a month-long DL stint (May 17th - June 18th -- the first of his career) to finish the 2014 campaign by going (7-6) in 18 starts with a 3.08 ERA, 36 walks (3.00 BB/9) and 109 Ks (9.08 K/9) in 108 IP over which he held opposing hitters to a combined .219/.287/.311 line. Gonzalez finished strong with a (4-1) record and a 2.48 ERA in five September starts.
"His numbers the last month of the season, especially, last four starts, were fantastic."
Coming into Spring Training, after a winter in which the left-hander worked hard to get in good shape, and ensure he didn't have any more issues with the shoulder, Williams said that the southpaw had something to prove.
"He doesn't want the total result of last year to be what people think of him," Williams explained.
"We see beyond that though, we see him coming back from the injury and having a dominant second half. And the way he pitched was more 'Gio.' And I think he would admit that too."
Gonzalez posted a 2.79 ERA, seven walks and 19 Ks in 19 ⅓ IP this Spring, holding opposing hitters to a .216 AVG.
In his first start of the season tonight, the fourth-year National was taking on the Philadelphia Phillies for the 13th time in his career.
In the previous twelve outings, Gonzalez was (6-4) with a 3.05 ERA and a .230/.290/.361 line against in 73 ⅔ IP, 51 of them in Citizens Bank Park, where he was (4-2) with a 2.47 ERA and a .202/.281/.339 line before tonight's outing.
Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 10, 2015
Gonzalez gave up a single and walk in a long-ish 20-pitch first, but retired the Philies in order in a nine-pitch second.
Phillies' infielder Freddy Galvis doubled with two down in the third, lining an 0-2 fastball to right field, but Gonzalez dropped a nasty 0-2 bender across the zone to get Chase Utley swinging and strike out the side in a 15-pitch frame that left him at 44 pitches.
Jeff Francoeur singled with one down in the Phillies' fourth, but two outs later he was stranded at first as Gonzalez completed a scoreless, 10-pitch frame. 54 pitches after four innings pitched.
Phillies' third baseman Andres Blanco lined a double to right on a first-pitch fastball from Gonzalez. Jerome Williams tried to bunt the runner over/give up an out, but K'd when the Nats' lefty dropped an 0-2 curve in for a called third strike. Ben Revere lined out to second in the next at bat, and Blanco had no chance to get back to the bag. 4-6 DP. Eight-pitch frame, 62 total.
Freddy Galvis singled to center, over the mound, to start the Phillies' sixth, but he was caught in a rundown in the next at bat, and tagged out on a grounder to second by Chase Utley. 4-3-6-4-5 DP. Darin Ruf's groundout to third ended a seven-pitch inning that left Gonzalez at 69 pitches.
Gonzalez issued his third walk of the game to Grady Sizemore with one down in the Phillies' seventh, and catcher Cameron Rupp took the fourth free pass in the at bat that followed. Andres Blanco stepped in with two on and one out and battled back from 0-2 to 2-2 before taking a fastball on the elbow.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 Ks, 95 P, 64 S, 8/1 GO/FO.
The line on Gio Gonzalez tonight: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HBP -- 95 pitches, 64 strikes. pic.twitter.com/vfm7xd28gJ— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 11, 2015
4. Former National: One-time Washington Nationals' starter Jerome Williams, who pitched in the nation's capital in 2007, going (0-5) with a 7.20 ERA in six starts and 30 IP, entered tonight's game (0-1) in four games (three of them starts) against the Nats over the course of his career, with a 4.58 ERA and a .286/.333/.429 line against in 19 ⅔ IP.
One of the three starts took place last September in D.C., where the right-hander gave up nine hits and five runs, four earned in 5 IP in a 9-8 Phillies' win in which he received no decision. Claimed off waivers by the Phillies last season, Williams re-signed on a 1-year/$2.5M deal this winter.
Tonight in Citizens Bank Park, the veteran righty was just eight pitches in before he was down a run, giving up a solo blast to left by Michael Taylor that made it 1-0 Nationals early.
After a 27-pitch first, Williams bounced back with a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 second and an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 third that left him at 50 total after three.
Ryan Zimmerman walked to start the fourth and break Williams' streak of seven-straight batters set down, then went first-to-third™ on a line drive to left-center off Ian Desmond's bat, but Desmond was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, and Dan Uggla K'd swinging to strand Zim at third. 16-pitch frame, 66 total after four.
A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left Williams at 80 pitches. Ryan Zimmerman tore into a hanging 0-1 curve, lining a single to left with two down in the sixth, but he was forced out at second on a Wilson Ramos grounder that ended a 13-pitch frame which left Williams at 93 pitches.
• Jerome Williams' Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 93 P, 60 S, 5/3 GO/FO.
3. It's Michael Taylor Time: Michael Taylor, 24, finished his breakout 2014 campaign in the majors, going 8 for 39 with three doubles, a home run, three walks and 17 Ks in 43 PAs for the NL East Champions. Before he was called up by the Nationals, the '09 6th Round pick posted a combined .304/.390/.526 line, 20 doubles, three triples, 23 HRs, 37 stolen bases, 57 walks and 144 Ks in 110 games and 493 PAs between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.
With Denard Span on the DL, the Nationals are counting on Taylor out of the gate, and he got off to a hot start this Spring in spite of the pressure, putting up a .323/.343/.646 line with five doubles, two triples and four HRs in 21 Grapefruit League games.
Through three regular season games, after the season's opening series with the Mets, Taylor was 4 for 13 with two doubles heading into tonight's matchup.
"I think he's making his way," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after Thursday's series finale with New York.
"He had a fantastic minor league season last year," Williams continued. "Got a taste of the big leagues. Had some success, and with consistent at bats, he just continues to get rhythm and timing. It's good for him to see all these pitchers, to get a sense of them too. But today he battled in his last at bat, he really battled, fouled some pitches off and ended up hit a ball off the wall, so that's a really good sign for Michael."
Taylor proved his manager right tonight, battling for eight pitches in the first at bat of the game and then flat crushing a 91 mph full-count heater from Phillies' starter Jerome Williams, sending a solo blast screaming out to left field to put the Nationals up 1-0 early.
2. Turning Point(s): Could Michael Taylor's leadoff home run in the first at bat of the game be the turning point? Jerome Williams settled in after giving up the blast to left and the Nationals held onto the 1-0 lead... until the seventh inning when Gio Gonzalez issued back-to-back, one-out walks and a base-loading HBP that ended his night and Xavier Cedeno and Craig Stammen gave up run-scoring hits on the first pitch each threw. The Phillies took a 4-1 lead before the inning was over.
1. The Wrap-Up: Luis Garcia replaced Williams on the mound in the top of the seventh and retired the Nationals in order.
Xavier Cedeno took over for Gio Gonzalez with the bases loaded and one down in the seventh and gave up a two-run double to right on the first pitch he threw. Two runs scored, 2-1 Phillies. Cedeno's night ended after a HBP on Ben Revere that loaded them up again, so Matt Williams went to the pen again for Craig Stammen, who surrendered an RBI single to right on his own first pitch. 3-1 Phillies. A sac fly to center by Chase Utley made it 4-1.
Yunel Escobar doubled to left with two down in the top of the eighth, but Bryce Harper K'd looking to give Philly righty Ken Giles a scoreless frame.
Blake Treinen threw a quick, 14-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth.
Jonathan Papelbon came on for the save in the top of the ninth and retired the Nationals in order. Ballgame.
Nationals now 1-3