5. Gonzalez vs Yankees: Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez gave up nine hits and five runs in five innings last week in Arizona in what ended up a 9-6 Nats' win over the Diamondbacks. Gonzalez, who threw 84 pitches in his five innings of work, received no decision. The game was decided on Michael Taylor's ninth inning grand slam, after which Drew Storen shut the door.
Gonzalez, Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after outing, didn't have his command in Chase Field.
"Generally when he's not commanding," Williams explained, "pitch count gets up and the ball sails off the plate a little bit. That was a little bit of the case today."
During a particularly rough stretch in the third when the D-Backs scored three runs on three hits and two walks with Gonzalez throwing 33 pitches in the frame, Williams made a mound visit without removing the left-hander.
Instead, the second-year skipper delivered a brief, finger-wagging address to his pitcher and infielders. He said he wasn't out there to pump everyone up.
His message? Throw strikes.
"We just got to get balls in the strike zone," Williams said.
"We can't give them free passes. We've got to throw balls in the strike zone. I went out and told him, "Get a ball in the strike zone, these guys will lay out for you, they'll make the play. Get back in the strike zone.' That was it."
Gonzalez threw seven of nine pitches for strikes in the fourth, but only nine of sixteen in his final inning of work when he gave up a triple by Paul Goldschmidt and an RBI single by A.J. Pollock for the fifth and final run he allowed.
The outing left Gonzalez with a 4.25 ERA, a 2.75 FIP, 16 walks (3.40 BB/9) and 42 Ks (8.93 K/9) in 42 ⅓ IP over which opposing hitters have a .297/.362/.436 line.
He was facing the New York Yankees for the seventh time in his career, and the second time since joining the Nats in 2012. In the previous six outings, Gonzalez was (1-5) with a 6.75 ERA and a .244/.367/.382 line against in 32 IP.
Tonight in the nation's capital, Gonzalez's eighth meeting with the Yankees began with a quick, 12-pitch, nine-strike, 1-2-3 first. Given a 2-0 lead to work with courtesy of solo home runs by Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper, Gonzalez came back out and retired the side in order on two more ground ball outs and a low liner back to the mound which ended a seven-pitch, 1-2-3 second. 19 total after two.
Gonzalez got three more groundouts for eight total in an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 third that left him at 30 pitches total after three scoreless and hitless.
Jacoby Ellsbury took a leadoff walk in the top of the fourth, and one out later, scored from second on a line drive to center by Chris Young, 2-1 Nationals. Mark Teixeira took a one-out walk to put two on for Yankees' catcher Brian McCann, who grounded into a force at second but beat the 4-3 throw to first.
Chase Headley stepped up with runners on the corners and two down and tied the game up with an RBI line drive to left field on a 94 mph 2-2 fastball. 2-2 game. After Jose Pirela reached safely on a swinging bunt that rolled down the third base line and stayed fair, Gonzalez got ahead 1-2 on Stephen Drew, but gave up a bases-loaded two-run single to center that put the visiting team ahead, 4-2. Nathan Eovaldi K'd looking to end a 40-pitch inning. 70 total after four.
Gio Gonzalez served up a 1-2 fastball knee high and over the middle to Mark Teixeira, who put it 15 rows back in the left field seats for a two-run blast that made it 6-2 Yankees after four and a half. 15-pitch fifth, 85 total.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 85 P, 51 S, 11/0 GO/FO.
4. Eovaldi knows Nats: Former Miami Marlins' right-hander Nathan Eovaldi talked in the leadup to tonight's start in Nationals Park about looking forward to facing the red-hot Washington Nationals, who have won 12 of their last 16 games to pull within a half-game of the NL East's first place New York Mets.
Eovaldi, 25, after four years in the NL with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Marlins, was facing the Nationals for the first time as a member of the New York Yankees' rotation, but making his eighth start against Washington and his fourth in D.C., where he was (1-2) with a 2.79 ERA and .260/.325/.315 line against over 19 ⅓ IP with the Fish.
In his five-plus major league seasons, the hard-throwing righty was (2-4) with a 4.76 ERA, 11 walks (3.03 BB/9) and 30 Ks (7.36 K/9) in 39 ⅔ IP against the Nationals overall, in which Nats' hitters had a combined .284/.337/.394 line.
He was confident heading into the start, however, telling reporters his familiarity with the Nationals' lineup would help.
"'I faced them enough to know how to get them out,'" Eovaldi told reporters, including Newsday's Erik Boland.
Eovaldi also said he looked forward to the challenge of facing a team that was going strong.
"'If a team's swinging good, I feel it always adds that extra intensity to the game, and you're extra focused," Eovaldi said. "You're more locked in. You want to face the best.'"
In seven starts this season before tonight's, Eovaldi was (3-1) with a 4.14 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 11 walks (2.40 BB/9) and 31 Ks (6.75 K/9) in 41 ⅓ IP.
Eovaldi's eighth start of the 2015 campaign began with a groundout to second by Denard Span, but Ian Desmond got all of a 98 mph 3-1 fastball and sent a line drive to right, over the out-of-town scoreboard and into the seats for a solo HR that made it 1-0 Nationals early. Desmond's 3rd of 2015.
One out later, Bryce Harper stepped in and destroyed an 84 mph 2-1 slider. Line drive home run to right. Harper's 15th of 2015. 2-0 Nationals. 21-pitch first for Eovaldi.
The Nationals went down in order in a seven-pitch second that left Eovaldi at 28 pitches. A 12-pitch, 1-2-3 third pushed the Yankees' righty up to 40.
Yunel Escobar singled and Bryce Harper walked in the first two at bats of the Nats' fourth, but Ryan Zimmerman K'd looking at a 1-2 splitter that was called strike three and Wilson Ramos grounded into an inning-ending 5-4-3. 16-pitch fourth for Eovaldi, 56 total.
Danny Espinosa walked to start the Nationals' fifth and scored one out later on an RBI double to right by pinch hitter, Clint Robinson, 6-3. Robinson took third on a single by Denard Span, and scored on a line drive to center by Ian Desmond that bounced off Stephen Drew's glove at short. Yunel Escobar's RBI single to center made it a one-run game and ended Eovaldi's night. 6-5 Yankees.
• Nathan Eovaldi's Line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 2 HRs, 82 P, 49 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
3. Espinosa's revival: On this day, May 19th, last season, Danny Espinosa had played in 34 games total for the Nationals, putting up a .226/.267/.416 line with six doubles, six home runs, four walks and 45 Ks in 146 plate appearances on his way to a .219/.283/.351 line overall on the season.
Espinosa struggled mightily from the left side of the plate in 2014, posting a .183/.241/.291 line vs right-handed pitchers and a .301/.374/.485 line vs lefties when the switch hitter turned around.
After a few seasons of similar struggles from the left side, it wasn't suprising when the Nationals asked Espinosa to consider giving up switch hitting, but after batting exclusively from the right side in Spring Training, he went back to the left side of the dish once the season got underway.
While he's still not crushing right-handed pitching, with a .244/.359/.513, six doubles and five home runs in 93 PAs from the left side so far this season, he's struck out just 18 times through 31 games.
From the right side, against lefties, Espinosa has a .375/.423/.417 line with two walks and seven Ks in 28 PAs.
Nationals' manager Matt Williams was asked this weekend what's different about Espinosa's approach over the last few seasons?
"All I know is last year and last year his head was getting out in front of the baseball, out in front of his body a little bit," Williams said. "This year he's sitting down at the plate a little bit more and he's letting the ball come to him and any time you can do that you've got a better chance of having a little bit of success."
On the year, the 28-year-old, '08 3rd Round pick has a .275/.373/.490 line through 31 games and 119 PAs.
Tonight against the New York Yankees, Espinosa showed off the glove early, making two range-y plays in the first, and then he took a nine-pitch walk from Yankees' starter Nathan Eovaldi in the fifth and scored the Nationals' third run of the game on a pinch hit, RBI double by Clint Robinson, 6-3 NY.
2. Turning Point(s): Ian Desmond hit a 98 mph 3-1 fastball out the other way for an opposite field blast to right with one down in the first, and one out later Bryce Harper got hold of a 2-1 slider and hit his 15th HR of the season over the out-of-town scoreboard in right to make it 2-0 Nationals early in the nation's capital. Harper's blast left him 11 for 23 in his last six-plus games in Nationals Park, over which he'd hit a double and seven home runs.
• A leadoff walk, which I was led to believe rarely comes back to haunt you, did just that to Gio Gonzalez in the top of the fourth. Gonzalez put Jacoby Ellsbury on and one out later, giving the Yankees their first baserunner and Chris Young hit an RBI single to center to cut the Nats' lead in half, 2-1, with NY's first hit.
• One more walk and two outs later, Chase Headley lined a 94 mph 2-2 fastball to left field to tie the game up at 2-2, and Stephen Drew hit a base-loaded line drive to center to put the Yankees ahead, 4-2.
• A two-run home run by Mark Teixeira in the fifth gave the Yankees some breathing room, 6-2, but not for long.
• The Nationals rallied for three runs in the bottom of the inning, with pinch hitter Clint Robinson doubling in a run and Ian Desmond and Yunel Escobar connecting for RBI singles, but Justin Wilson came on for Nathan Eovaldi to face Bryce Harper with two on and one out and got a double play grounder out of the red-hot National, who spiked his helmet in frustration after the inning-ending ground ball.
• Wilson Ramos tied it up with one swing and extended his hit streak to 19-straight games with a solo HR to left on a 3-0 fastball from David Carpenter. 6-6.
1. The Wrap-Up: Justin Wilson took over for the Yankees with a one-run lead, one out and two on in the fifth and got a double play grounder out of Bryce Harper, 4-6-3 to end the inning and preserve the 6-5 lead.
Blake Treinen struck pinch hitter Garrett Jones out to end a scoreless 11-pitch sixth.
With one out in the Nationals' sixth, Yankees' righty David Carpenter fell behind 3-0 to Wilson Ramos and gave up an absolute bomb of a home run left that cleared the visitor's bullpen and landed 10 rows back in the stands. 19-game hit streak, 6-6 tie in the nation's capital. HR no.2 for the Nats' catcher.
With the game tied up, Blake Treinen threw a quick, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh.
Wilmer Difo made his MLB debut as a pinch hitter for Treinen in the bottom of the seventh inning and lined a 96 mph 0-1 fastball back up the middle for his first major league hit. Difo was running when Denard Span grounded out to first in the next at bat, so he arrived safely at second. A two-out walk ended Carpenter's night.
Left-hander Chasen Shreve came on to face former College of Southern Nevada teammate Bryce Harper, lefty vs lefty with two on and two out and got ahead 1-1 with some nasty sliders down and away and struck Harper out with a 2-2 bender. 6-6 after seven.
Matt Thornton gave up leadoff, infield single by Mark Teixeira, who lined one back to the mound and off the lefty's leg, but recorded two outs before Nats' skipper Matt Williams went to the pen for right-hander Aaron Barrett.
Barrett faced Yankees' second baseman Jose Pirela, hot up 0-2 quickly with back-to-back sliders and got out no.3 on a line drive to second.
Dellin Betances retired the Nats in order in a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth that gave him 22 IP without an ER allowed so far this season.
Drew Storen retired the Yankees in order in the top of the ninth, with a quick, 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame. Some guy named Alex Rodriguez got booed lustily.
Dan Uggla walked with one down in the Nationals' ninth, but Denard Span grounded into an inning-ending 6-3 DP to give Bentances 23 innings without an ER allowed on the year.
Matt Grace issued a two-out walk to Mark Teixeira with left-hander Brian McCann on deck, and struck New York's catcher out to end a scoreless 16-pitch frame. Still 6-6.
Yunel Escobar took a one-out walk from Andrew Miller in the bottom of the tenth, bringing Bryce Harper up against the big left-hander. Harper started down 0-2, got to 2-2, 3-2, and K'd swinging at a brutal slider. Two down. Ryan Zimmerman came up next and walked off. HR to right. Ballgame.
Nationals now 23-17