5. Gio Gonzalez in Fenway: Gio Gonzalez began his third season as part of the Washington Nationals' rotation with six scoreless innings of work on the mound against the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park last Friday night. Things took a turn for the worse when he went back out for the seventh inning, however, with the 29-year-old lefty issuing back-to-back, one-out walks before a base-loading HBP ended his outing.
All three runners Gonzalez put on eventually scored as the Phillies rallied from a 1-0 deficit to take a 3-1 lead in what ended up a 4-1 win.
"He just lost the strike zone," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the loss. "He still hadn't given up a run, but he walked two guys and a hit a guy in that inning, so, he just lost it. Lost the command he had for the six innings prior. Not bad, but just off the plate, but we load the bases there. The last guy that he hit, tried to come in and just went too far. Other than that inning, he threw the ball really well."
"I was trying to be too perfect," Gonzalez said afterwards. "Just walked people. Hit a guy. Just when you think you're moving at a fast pace, they slowed you down, and that's what happened. I was a little here and there, nitpicking the corners, trying to get at them. They kept fouling off a lot of pitches, so, they worked the count pretty well. They did a great job."
Gonzalez was happy with his stuff though, at least until his final inning of work.
"I felt great all the way to the seventh inning," he said, "couldn't find it after that. I couldn't explain it if I wanted to. I mean, it's tough to say. I've got to throw strikes. I've got to get the guy out. I've got to execute. I've got to do a better job."
Gonzalez's second start of the season took place this afternoon in Fenway Park, where the former Oakland A's starter was (2-0) with a 4.84 ERA in four starts and 22 ⅓ IP before today.
One of those outings, and 6 ⅓ of the innings he's pitched in the 102-year-old park in his career, came in his first year with the Nationals in 2012, when he earned a win over the Red Sox, giving up three hits, two walks and two earned runs for his third win in his last four starts vs Boston.
Gonzalez took the mound with a 2-0 lead, courtesy of an RBI double to center by Bryce Harper and an RBI triple to right by Ryan Zimmerman off Sox' starter Wade Miley in the top of the first, and worked around a leadoff single by Mookie Betts, completing a scoreless 14-pitch frame.
Mike Napoli hit a high fly to center in Fenway in the first at bat of the second. Michael Taylor tracked it to the warning track, but dove at the last second and had it bounce off his glove for what was ruled a triple. An RBI single by Shane Victorino cut the Nats' lead in half, 2-1, and after a throwing error by Yunel Escobar moved Victorino around to third, he scored on an RBI groundout by Sandy Leon, 2-2. 16-pitch frame for Gonzalez. 30 total after two.
By the time Gonzalez returned to the mound for the third, the Nationals were up 8-2.
Gonzalez retired the Sox in order in a 16-pitch frame that left him at 46 total, then struck out the side around a one-out walk in the fourth. 17-pitch frame. 63 total.
Dustin Pedroia doubled with two down in the Sox' fifth and Hanley Ramirez followed with a line drive two-run home run on a hanging first-pitch curve from Gonzalez. 8-4 Nats. 17-pitch frame, 80 total after five.
A walk to Mike Napoli started the Red Sox' sixth, and two outs later, the Red Sox' DH scored on a ground-rule double to right by Brock Holt. 8-5 Nationals. Gonzalez got out of the inning with help from a diving play at third by Yunel Escobar on a sharp one-hopper off Sandy Leon's bat. 24-pitch frame, 104 overall.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 104 P, 66 S, 9/2 GO/FO.
4. Please, No More Es: For six innings last night, the Washington Nationals played a clean one, avoiding the sort of miscues and errors that hurt them over the first seven games of the season.
In the seventh inning, however, it happened again.
An error by Ian Desmond on a ground ball started things rolling downhill and it only got worse as the Red Sox, traililng by two at the time, 7-5, loaded the bases and scored two runs on a swinging bunt back to the mound on which reliever Blake Treinen managed to commit two errors, bobbling the ball and then throwing it by home.
A third run scored on an RBI groundout and Boston retook the lead, holding on after that for an 8-7 win and their second straight victory in the three-game set.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams was asked after the sixth loss in eight games if there was anything he noticed that was leading to the issues for his club.
"I don't notice anything other than we scored seven runs tonight which is a good sign," he said, "and if you continue to kick the ball around, you're going to lose. Bottom line. So, that being said, we have to do better. We have to do better starting tomorrow and give ourselves a chance to win. The last two games we haven't given ourselves a chance."
Today in Fenway, Michael Taylor turned a fly to the track in center off Mike Napoli's bat into a triple, tracking it as it got caught up in the wind and diving at the last second, only to have it bounce off his glove.
(Photo © Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Napoli scored from third on an RBI single by Shane Victorino in the next at bat, 2-1 Nats, and Yunel Escobar committed a throwing error on a grounder to third by Xander Bogaerts in the AB that followed, putting runners on second and third with no one out. Sandy Leon hit a grounder to short one out later, bringing Victorino in to tie it at 2-2.
• The Nationals avoided any errors the rest of the way, and kept on hitting, taking a 10-5 lead in the seventh.
3. Jackie Robinson Day: Davey Johnson was a living connection to the history of baseball for fans and reporters while he managed the Washington Nationals from late 2011-2013. Name dropping on a daily basis and sharing anecdotes from a lifetime in the game, the former major-leaguer-turned manager crossed paths with some of the greats over the course of his 13 seasons as a player and 17 seasons as a skipper.
He never met Jackie Robinson though.
"I saw him a lot on tv," Johnson said in mid-April of 2012, when Major League Baseball celebrated the April 15, 1947 anniversary of Robinson's first major league game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
"My first tv was black and white, watching Brooklyn play the Yankees," Johnson said. "But I would have liked to [meet him]. I met just about everybody else almost during that era."
Johnson did say that he thought it was great to see the entire league come together to celebrate the day Robinson broke the so-called "color barrier," becoming the first African-American player in the majors.
In addition to changing the game, Robinson excelled at it, putting up a combined .311/.409/.474 line in 1,382 games and 5,804 plate appearances over ten seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers in which he hit 273 doubles, 84 triples and 137 home runs.
"It's just a great day," Johnson said. "He was one of my idols growing up. I was a shortstop and I paid more attention to [Phil] Rizzuto and [Pee Wee] Reese in the first television I saw, but I was impressed with the way [Robinson] played. I liked the way he played all out. Smart. Aggressive. Steal home. Take the extra base. So, it's a great there's a day after him."
2. Turning Point(s): The Nationals jumped out to an early 2-0 lead over the Red Sox and Wade Miley, but another misplay by Michael Taylor in the outfield and a throwing error by Yunel Escobar allowed Boston to tie things up at 2-2 after two. Washington took the lead again in the third though, with Ian Desmond crushing a slider from Miley and sending a solo blast over the Green Monster in left and off the AAA insurance banner atop the wall. 3-2 Nationals on Desmond's first of 2015.
The Nationals kept hitting in the top of the third too, following up on Desmond's home run with a three-run double by Wilson Ramos and RBI doubles by Dan Uggla and Michael Taylor as the Nats scored six to take an 8-2 lead over the Red Sox after three in the series finale in Fenway.
Tyler Moore gave the Nationals a little distance after the Red Sox added a few, hitting a two-run home run to left in the seventh to put the Nationals ahead, 10-5.
1. The Wrap-Up: Anthony Varvaro replaced Wade Miley in the top of the third and came back out for more work in the fourth and fifth, holding the Nationals lead at 8-2.
With the score 8-4 Nationals after Hanley Ramirez's two-run home run in the fifth, Varvaro walked Yunel Escobar in the first at bat of the sixth. New pitcher Robbie Ross, Jr. walked Ian Desmond to put two on with no one out, but Jayson Werth popped out and Bryce Harper grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3.
Ross came back out for the seventh inning and gave up a one-out single by Wilson Ramos and a two-run home run to left by Tyler Moore that made it 10-5 Nationals.
Rafael Martin made his MLB debut in the bottom of the seventh inning, striking out back-to-back batters, Hanley Ramirez swinging and Allen Craig looking to end a 17-pitch frame. Congrats, Rafael!
Martin came back out for the eighth, and struck out the first two batters he faced with sliders, giving him four straight Ks. Xanders Bogaerts worked the count full in his two-out at bat and took a fastball inside, knee-high for a called strike three and five straight Ks.
Drew Storen came on for some work in the ninth and retired the side in order. Ballgame.
Nationals now 3-6