5. Gio Gonzalez vs Miami: Yes, Gio Gonzalez did manage to throw six scoreless innings last time out, in a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in which he received no decision, but lowered his ERA from 5.11 to 3.44.
It wasn't exactly smooth sailing for the 29-year-old left-hander in Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Park.
The Nationals' lone lefty starter put 12 Cards' hitters on and somehow stranded them all. Gonzalez left one runner on in the first, two in the second, got a groundout from the opposing pitcher to leave'em loaded in the fourth, a groundout from Cards' outfielder Jon Jay to leave'em loaded again in the fifth and a double play two get out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth.
Gonzalez threw 107 pitches total against the Cardinals, with three innings of 20+ pitches, though he did end the night with a relatively-quick 10-pitch frame.
"Not as sharp tonight as he has been," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the outing.
"But he worked through it. We pushed him through the sixth. But he felt good coming out of the fifth. Four of those pitches were an intentional walk, so he felt good going into the sixth inning. And he was able to get out of it with a double play ball. So, he pitched really well, gave us a chance to win and left the game with the lead."
Gonzalez received no decision in the outing because Drew Storen blew the save opportunity in the top of the ninth, but the Nationals ended up winning the game in extra innings. Since then, though, they'd dropped four straight.
Against the Miami Marlins, however, who handed the Nats two of those four losses, Gonzalez was on a five-start win streak heading into today's series finale.
Going back to April 3, 2013, he'd put up a 1.13 ERA vs the Fish in 32 IP, with three of the five starts scoreless outings.
In eight starts vs Miami before today's Gonzalez was (6-2) with a 1.67 ERA, 12 walks (2.00 BB/9) and 54 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 54 innings pitched over which he'd held Marlins' hitters to a combined .190/.239/.249 line.
This afternoon, on "Hialeah Day" in Miam's Marlins Park, the Hialeah, FL-born lefty worked around a leadoff single by Dee Gordon, striking both Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna out with changeups low and away to end a 17-pitch first.
With help from a strong throw by Ian Desmond on an Ichiro grounder to short, Gonzalez completed a quick, 15-pitch, 1-2-3 second that left him at 32 total. Dee Gordon bunted his way on, but was stranded at the end of a 16-pitch third by Gonzalez, who was up to 48 pitches after three scoreless.
A weak ground ball single by Giancarlo Stanton and a four-pitch walk to Marcell Ozuna put two on with no one out in the Marlins' fourth.
Michael Morse K'd swinging through another 2-2 change, belt-high outside this time. J.T. Realmuto worked the count full, spitting on a 2-2 curve Gonzalez bounced, but a 3-2 change caught the catcher looking for out no.2.
Ichiro Suzuki hit a weak roller to second in the next at bat, and beat the throw to first, but Stanton took too wide a turn around third, and was caught in a rundown... he escaped when Wilson Ramos tried and failed to chase him back to the bag. Bases loaded for Adeiny Hechavarria... who, of course, tripled to center to clear the bases and make it 3-1 Marlins.
Dan Haren's swinging K ended a 28-pitch frame that left Gio at 76 total after four.
Dee Gordon singled to start the Marlins' fifth, but Wilson Ramos cut him down when he tried to steal second. Martin Prado singled with one down and scored when Giancarlo Stanton hit a towering "triple" that bounced off the top of the rounded wall in front of Red Grooms' psychedelic home run sculpture. 4-2 Marlins. A sac fly to right by Ozuna brought him in, however, and gave Miami a 5-2 lead. Michael Morse's swinging K ended a 12-pitch frame.
88 total for Gonzalez after five.
J.T. Realmuto tripled to center to start the sixth, taking a first-pitch fastball for a ride to the base of the outfield wall in center for the third triple of the game by Miami. Ichiro Suzuki brought him in with an RBI single to right. 6-2 Marlins.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 5.0 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 94 P, 59 S, 4/2 GO/FO.
4. Hey, Dan Haren (@ithrow88): One-time Nationals' starter, Dan Haren, who pitched for the Nats for one season in a disappointing 2013 campaign, took the mound this afternoon in Marlins Park hoping to help his new team sweep his former employer.
Haren, 34, who was acquired by Miami along with Dee Gordon and Miguel Rojas in a seven-player swap this past December, entered this afternoon's outing (3-3) in seven career starts against the Nationals, with a 2.76 ERA and a .187/.257/.287 line against in 42 ⅓ career innings pitched against Washington.
On the year, the veteran of 11 major league seasons, was (1-1) with a 3.32 ERA, a 5.77 FIP, five walks (2.37 BB/9) and 14 Ks (6.63 K/9) in three starts and 19 IP heading into today's start, coming off a six-inning outing against Tampa Bay in which he held the Rays to one run on four hits.
Against the Nationals, in this afternoon's series finale in Marlins Park, Haren started things off with a 19-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the first.
Bryce Harper hit the sixth home run of the year off Haren and his own fifth of the season on an 81 mph 2-2 splitter in the first at bat of the second, putting the Nationals up 1-0. Haren threw 11 pitches to the next three batters he faced, retiring them in order for a 16-pitch frame that left him at 35 total after two.
After a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 third, Haren was up to 48 pitches. Yunel Escobar walked to start the fourth, and two outs later, Ryan Zimmerman took the second free pass of the frame, bringing Ian Desmond up with two on and two out, but Haren caught him looking with a 3-2 fastball outside that home plate ump Gabe Morales called strike three. 24-pitch frame, 72 total.
Wilson Ramos singled to start the fifth, took second on a one-out sac bunt by Gio Gonzalez and scored to cut into the Marlins' lead on a two-out single to left by Denard Span. A two-out walk to Yunel Escobar earned Haren a mound visit. A 1-2 fastball to Jayson Werth caught the Nats' outfielder looking. 19-pitch frame, 91 total after five.
• Dan Haren's Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 91 P, 51 S, 6/3 GO/FO.
3. Nationals' offense: Matt Williams didn't have much to offer reporters after Saturday's deflating 8-0 loss to the Miami Marlins. The Nationals connected for just seven hits and went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position and seven left on base as a team, committed another error on defense and failed to support a less-than spectacular outing by stater Stephen Strasburg with any runs.
"Well, 8-0, pretty bad," Williams said. "But today's one of those days where there's not much to say other than they got some big hits, we didn't. It's a rough day for us, but we've got to respond. We have to to respond tomorrow and play well. Not much other than that to say."
Williams was asked if his hitters were too aggressive against Marlins' starter Tom Koehler, who threw 7 ⅓ scoreless, scattering, as they say, six hits.
"No. Not really," Williams said. "It's about swinging at good pitches. I think they made some good plays, but we just didn't put anything together. We've got to do a better job of that and hopefully it starts tomorrow."
What kind of response was he looking for after four straight losses, two to the Cards and two to the Fish?
"We just need to respond," the second-year skipper and former major leaguer said.
"We need to play a good game, we need to pitch well. We need to play good defense. We need to work all aspects of the game. Again, times like this there's not much to say other than we need a win. Try to do that tomorrow."
The Nationals' response? Three hits off Dan Haren including the home run by Bryce Harper, and the RBI single by Denard Span. A botched rundown. The third straight loss in Miami and fifth straight loss overall.
2. Turning Point(s): Dan Haren has dominated right-handed hitters this season, with a .092/.152/.154 line against right-handed hitters after three starts and a .229/.289/.571 line vs lefties. It was a left-handed hitter, Bryce Harper, who got to him first today, hitting a solo home run out to right in Marlins Park to put the Nationals up 1-0 early.
It was Harper's fifth home run of the season and the sixth overall off Haren, who has given up all eight earned runs he's allowed this season on home runs.
Gio Gonzalez was out of the fourth inning. Almost. Ichiro Suzuki hit a slow roller to second with two on and two out, and even though he beat Danny Espinosa's throw to first, Giancarlo Stanton took too wide a turn around third, and the Nats had him caught. Wilson Ramos took a throw home from Ryan Zimmerman and then chased Stanton down the third base line, but he did not throw to Yunel Escobar at third, trying to tag the runner himself only to fail to run him down. Adeiny Hechavarria stepped in next with the bases loaded and cleared them with a three-run triple to center that made it 3-1 Marlins.
Miami added two more in the fifth, after the Nats scored to get within one at 3-2, when Giancarlo Stanton just missed a huge two-run blast to center.
He settled for an RBI triple off the rounded wall in front of the HR sculpture and scored on a sac fly by Marcell Ozuna, 5-2.
1. The Wrap-Up: Sam Dyson took over for Dan Haren with a 5-2 lead in the sixth and retired the Nationals in order in a 13-pitch frame.
Matt Grace took over for Gio Gonzalez in the bottom of the sixth inning and got out without further damage. Still 6-2 Miami.
A.J. Ramos threw a quick, scoreless top of the seventh for the Marlins. Blake Treinen gave up a two-out infield single by Michael Morse, but completed a nine-pitch frame without giving up anything else.
Ramos gave up a one-out single by Yunel Escobar, but nothing else in a scoreless eighth.
Drew Storen gave up back-to-back, two-out singles by Justin Bour and Dee Gordon, but popped Martin Prado up to end the eighth.
Steve Cisek came on for some work in the ninth and retired the Nationals in order. 6-2 final.
Nationals now 7-12