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Nationals 4-1 over Phillies: Bryce Harper 2 for 3, 2 RBIs, one silly-good outfield assist

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Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez held the Philadelphia Phillies to one run on seven hits in 6+ innings in the series finale in Nationals Park, and the Nats broke it open late and took two of three in the weekend series, 4-1 final.

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5. Gio vs the Phillies: Gio Gonzalez threw three scoreless vs the Yankees last time out, but ran into trouble in the fourth when leadoff and one out walks and four hits led to New York scoring four runs to take a 4-2 lead, which became a 6-2 lead after Mark Teixeira took the Washington Nationals' lefty deep for a two-run blast in the top of the fifth. After throwing a total of 30 pitches in the first three frames, Gonzalez threw 40 in the fourth and 15 more in the fifth before he was done for the night in what ended up a come from behind 8-6 win for the Nats.

"Just up," Nationals' manager Matt Williams explained when asked to assess what went wrong for the 29-year-old lefty after a strong start to the outing.

"The first three [innings] were really good. Lots of grounders. Working quickly, good tempo, down in the zone and then in the fourth inning he just got up." -Matt Williams on Gio Gonzalez vs the NYY

"Missing with his fastball and up. Teixeira hit a changeup, got him two strikes and hung a changeup, and the ball [was] just up in the zone. He had [Stephen] Drew down two strikes as well and fastball out over for him to hit, so wasn't as sharp tonight. Just lost command. The first three [innings] were really good. Lots of grounders. Working quickly, good tempo, down in the zone and then in the fourth inning he just got up."

It was the second straight five inning start for Gonzalez, who has allowed 15 hits, four walks and 11 runs, all earned in back-to-back games the Nationals battled back to win in spite of the starter's struggles.

Opposing hitters put up a combined .341/.396/.500 line in the last two starts, which left the left-hander (3-2) on the year with a 4.94 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 18 walks (3.42 BB/9) and 43 Ks (8.18 K/9) in eight outings and 47 ⅓ IP so far this season.

This afternoon in the nation's capital, Gonzalez was facing the Philadelphia Phillies for the second time in 2015 after suffering a loss to the Nats' NL East rivals in his first start of the season.

That outing left Gonzalez (6-5) in 13 career starts against the Phils, in which he's posted a 3.15 ERA with 26 walks (2.93 BB/9) and 76 Ks (8.55 K/9) in 80 IP, over which Philly hitters have a .231/.298/.359 line against him.

The fourteenth start of his career against the Phillies began with a single to right by Ben Revere, but one out later, the leadoff man was doubled up when Darin Ruf sent a grounder to short to start an inning-ending 6-4-3. 10-pitch first for Gonzalez.

Jeff Francoeur singled with one down in the second, but another grounder to short and another 6-4-3 got Gonzalez threw two scoreless on 21 pitches after an 11-pitch frame.

Odubel Herrera K'd looking at a 92 mph 1-2 fastball. Cameron Rupp K'd swinging at a 1-2 curve. A 2-2 bender got Aaron Harang for the third straight strikeout and Gonzalez's 4th K in three scoreless. 14-pitch frame, 35 total.

Freddy Galvis reached on a single up the middle when Ian Desmond ranged over to get it but threw high to first to pull Ryan Zimmerman off the bag and a two-out walk to Darin Ruf put two runners on with one out. Jeff Francoeur's single through short brought Galvis around and put the Phillies up, 1-0. An error by Clint Robinson in left allowed both runners to move into scoring position with two down, but a swinging K on an 0-2 curve to Cesar Hernandez ended a 19-pitch frame. 54 total.

Cameron Rupp doubled to center with one down in the Phily fifth and took third on a groundout to second by Aaron Harang, but he was stranded there when Ben Revere grounded back to the mound to end a 16-pitch frame that left Gonzalez at 70 overall.

Darin Ruf doubled to the corner in right with one out in the sixth, but a swinging K from Maikel Franco on an 0-2 bender and a flyout to left by Jeff Francoeur ended a 14-pitch inning that pushed Gonzalez up to 84 pitches.

Gonzalez got Cesar Hernandez swinging with a full-count fastball for his seventh K in the first at bat of the seventh, but a one-out single to right by Odubel Herrera ended his outing after 94 pitches...

Gio Gonzalez's Line: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 94 P, 64 S, 6/0 GO/FO.

4. Harang again: Aaron Harang went six innings against the Nationals back on April 18th in a 5-3 Phillies' win in the nation's capital, improving to (4-5) in 14 career starts against Washington/Montreal (yes, he's been around that long, he's 37) with a 3.16 ERA, 26 walks (2.53 BB/9) and 56 Ks (5.44 K/9) in 92 ⅔ IP over which he's held Expos/Nationals' hitters to a combined .281/.331/.450 line.

"[Harang] goes out there with 88-89, touching 91. He just pitches. He uses all of his pitches every count, he flips the count sometimes where it's 1-2 he throws a heater right down the middle..." -Bryce Harper on facing Aaron Harang, 2014

In six starts since that outing, the veteran in his 14th major league season has posted a 1.76 ERA, eight walks (1.76 BB/9) and 29 Ks (6.37 K/9) in 41 IP over which opposing hitters have a .216/.261/.311 line.

As mentioned in the Phillies' pregame notes, Harang's 1.82 ERA overall so far this season makes him the first Philly starter since Roy Halladay in 2010 to put up a sub-2.00 ERA over his first nine starts.

Heading into today's outing in the series finale in Nationals Park, Harang hadn't allowed an earned run in 14 innings over his last two starts.

He'd pitched well, historically, in the nation's capital too, with a (2-1) record and a 2.17 ERA in 29 IP over five career starts in D.C.

Harang took the mound against the Nationals for the second time this season in the bottom of the first and gave up a leadoff double to center by Denard Span on the second pitch he threw. Two outs later, with Span still on second, Bryce Harper hit a liner back to the mound and off Harang's leg for a two-out infield single, but Ryan Zimmerman came up with two down and went down "swinging" on a check-swing strike three that ended a 16-pitch frame.

Danny Espinosa bunted for a single with one down in the second, but he was stranded on the basepaths when Gio Gonzalez popped out to end a nine-pitch second that left Harang at 25 pitches.

Ian Desmond extended his personal hit-streak to nine straight games with a one-out single to right in the Nats' third, and Bryce Harper battled back from 0-2 to 3-2 and walked with two down, but Ryan Zimmerman stepped in with two on and two out and sent a swinging bunt back to the pitcher to end a 22-pitch frame. 47 total for Harang after three.

Clint Robinson lined a 2-1 fastball to right for a leadoff double in the Nationals' third, (his 3rd), and Robinson scored when Jose Lobaton sent a 3-0 pitch through the right side of the infield for an RBI single that tied things up at 1-1.

Danny Espinosa worked a seven-pitch walk out of Harang, allowing Gio Gonzalez to bunt both runners over/give up an out, but Denard Span sent a roller back to the mound on a check swing on a 2-0 pitch and Ian Desmond sent a check-swing grounder to first to end the threat. 1-1 after four. 22-pitch frame, 69 total.

Yunel Escobar tripled to right and off the out-of-town scoreboard on a 2-1 fastball from Harang in the first at bat of the Nats' fifth, then scored on a groundout to short by Bryce Harper, 2-1 Nats. Two outs later, Harang was up to 87 pitches after an 18-pitch frame.

An eight-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth left Harang at 95 pitches.

Aaron Harang's Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 Ks, 95 P, 59 S, 8/4 GO/FO.

3. Series finale: With yesterday's win in Nationals Park, the Phillies improved to 12-22 in their last 34 games against their NL East rivals from the nation's capital when they've played in D.C. Overall, in series contested in Washington, Philadelphia was just 2-7-1 heading into the series finale this afternoon with their only two series wins in the Nats' home coming in August of 2012 and last September when they took 2 of 3 games.

On the year, the Phillies were 4-5 against the Nationals heading into the series finale. They were 4-6 on the year and 2-8-1 in when visiting Nationals Park after today's loss. Eight-straight series wins for the Nationals.

2. Turning Point(s): Gio Gonzalez started this afternoon's outing with three scoreless frames, but an infield single up the middle by Freddy Galvis and a one-out walk to Darin Ruf put a runner in scoring position for Jeff Francoeur with two down and the Phillies' veteran outfielder came through with an RBI single to left that gave the Philiies a 1-0 lead.

• The Nationals responded immediately, however, with Clint Robinson doubling to right in the first at bat of the Nats' fourth and scoring on an RBI single to right by Jose Lobaton, who got the green light on a 3-0 pitch and brought the runner home to tie it up at 1-1.

• Yunel Escobar saw that Phillies' center fielder Odubel Herrera hadn't recovered the ball yet as he got to second on a fly to the out-of-town in right-center in the first at bat of the fifth, so he kept running and beat the throw in to third to set Bryce Harper up with an RBI opportunity Harper cashed in with a grounder to short. 2-1 Nationals in the fifth.

1. The Wrap-Up: Aaron Barrett took over on the mound with a runner on first and one out in the seventh. Philliles' catcher Cameron Rupp lined a 1-0 fastball to right in the next at bat, but Odubel Herrera had to wait to see if it fell, and it gave Bryce Harper enough time to charge in and fire a strike to second for the 9-6 force. Ho-hum. Showoff.

Matt Grace came on to face Chase Utley with a runner on and two out and got Chase Utley looking with a 1-2 sinker outside to end the top of the seventh.

Denard Span doubled to center on a 2-0 fastball from Justin De Fratus in the first at bat of the Nationals' seventh. Ian Desmond bunted Span over/gave up an out. Yunel Escobar grounded out to third for out no.2. Philly skipper Ryne Sandberg went to the pen for Jake Diekman and a lefty vs lefty matchup with Bryce Harper, who sent an RBI single to left on a 97 mph 1-1 fastball. 3-1 Nationals. 4-1 when Ryan Zimmerman doubles to right-center and off the out-of-town scoreboard.

Grace and Casey Janssen combined for a scoreless eighth inning.

Drew Storen came on in the ninth. Grady Sizemore doubled to center with one down, but two outs later he was stranded at second. Ballgame. 4-1 Nationals.

Nationals now 26-18