5. Gio vs the Red Machine: Coming off two less-than-stellar outings, against the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees, in which he gave up 15 hits and 11 runs, all earned, in 10 IP (9.90 ERA), Gio Gonzalez bounced back some last time out, holding the struggling Philadelphia Phillies to one run on seven hits in 6 ⅓ innings pitched in a 4-1 win Nationals Park. Washington's 29-year-old left-hander needed 94 pitches to get through six-plus innings in that outing, after which Nats' skipper Matt Williams said his ability to command his fastball down in the zone was key.
"I just think he established low strike today," Williams explained. "Which helps with his breaking ball because it's a big sweeping breaker that gets down below the zone and his changeup.
"Establishing the low strike and being able to pinpoint that down and away helped him a lot today. He was good from the first inning."
"If he loses the baseball," Williams said, "generally it's up and away, but today he was on top of it, mechanics were good, on top of the baseball, driving down to the plate."
Gonzalez, as always, passed the credit around when he talked to reporters about the start.
"The other day I was picking Max [Scherzer's] brain," he said, "just seeing how to go out there and attack the strike zone, change the eyesight of some of the hitters."
He said his catcher played a big role too.
"I could have never done this without the success of [Jose] Lobaton doing a great job behind the dish. Our offense doing an unbelievable job and defense always making great plays for myself."
Lobaton was back behind the plate for this afternoon's start, as Gonzalez took on the Cincinnati Reds in the second game of the Nationals' three-game set in Great American Ball Park.
Gonzalez took the mound with a (4-2) record through nine starts, a 4.53 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 19 walks (3.19 BB/9) and 50 Ks (8.39 K/9) in 53 ⅔ IP, over which opposing hitters have a .295/.356/.433 line against him.
He was making his sixth career start vs the Reds, after going (2-1) with a 1.06 ERA, nine walks (2.38 BB/9) and 40 Ks (10.59 K/9) in 34 IP over the previous five outings, in which he held Cincinnati's hitters to a combined .138/.198/.224 line.
Joey Votto singled to right with one down in the bottom of the first, when Danny Espinosa, deep on the short-right grass, made a sliding play but lost the ball on the exchange. Todd Frazier sent a single up the middle in the next at bat to put two on in front of Jay Bruce, who took a 3-2 bender inside that home plate ump Andy Fletcher didn't like. Bases loaded. Brayan Pena lined a 2-2 change to short, however, allowing Ian Desmond to turn an unassisted DP. 22-pitch first. 1-0 Nats.
Gio Gonzalez struck out two Reds on the way to a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 second that left him at 35 pitches total after two.
Billy Hamilton worked the count full and singled to center to start the Reds' third, then made it to second safely when Gonzalez picked/caught him off first, but Ryan Zimmerman threw it away. A groundout to short by Brandon Phillips moved Williams to third with one out and and he scored the easy way when Joey Votto hit a 92 mph 2-2 fastball out to center for a two-run blast and a 2-1 Reds' lead. Votto's 9th. 25-pitch third for Gonzalez, 60 pitches total.
Marlon Byrd snuck a one-out single under a diving Ian Desmond in the Reds' fourth, but he was doubled up on a grounder to short off Zack Cozart's bat. 10-pitch fourth, 70 overall.
Gio Gonzalez got two backwards Ks and a lineout to left in a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 5th. 82 pitches.
After getting hit for the second time, Gio Gonzalez walked Joey Votto to start the Reds' sixth and gave up a ground-rule double to left by Todd Frazier that brought Jay Bruce up with two on and no one out. An RBI groundout brought Joey Votto in to make it 5-3. Brayan Pena hit a line drive single to left to bring Frazier in, 5-4.
That was it for Gonzalez...
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 99 P, 64 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
4. rye-SELL: Through five major league appearances, three of them as a starter, before today's against Washington, 25-year-old, Cuban-born right-hander Raisel Iglesias, who signed a 7-year/$27M with the Cincinnati Reds in 2014, was (1-1) with a 4.25 ERA, 2.74 FIP, nine walks (4.26 BB/9) and 17 Ks (8.05 K/9) in 19 IP.
Iglesias, who features a low 90s sinker (90.6 mph average), fastball, (91.4 mph), slider (80.8), change (83.8) and curve (81.8), occasional cutter and two-seamer, had struggled against left-handers before this afternoon's outing
Left-handers (49 of them) had a .286/.388/.381 line against the righty, while he'd held right-handed hitters (35) to a combined .182/.235/.344 line.
The Nationals got their first look at the 6'2'', 185 lb starter this afternoon, in the second game of three with the Reds in Great American Ball Park, where he was (1-0) in three games, two starts and 15 IP before taking the mound in the top of the first, with a .204/.271/.315 line against so far this season...
Yunel Escobar doubled to left field with two down in the top of the first on a line drive into corner on 1-0 slider from Iglesias, and scored on an RBI single to center by Ryan Zimmerman to make it 1-0 early in GABP. 14-pitch first for Iglesias.
The Nationals went down in order in a 21-pitch second that ended with Michael Taylor striking out on an 85 mph 2-2 slider. 35 pitches total for Iglesias after two. Ian Desmond K'd swinging at an 0-2 slider to end a 15-pitch, 1-2-3 third that left Iglesias at 50 pitches overall.
Yunel Escobar was 2 for 2 today after a leadoff single to start the fourth, but he was doubled up on a 5-4-3 DP off Ryan Zimmerman's bat. Clint Robinson singled to center on an 0-2 sinker with two down, but he was stranded when Jose Lobaton went down swinging at an 83 mph 1-2 slider. 11-pitch frame, 61 total.
Danny Espinosa lined a single to center to start the fifth and one out later, Iglesias hit Gio Gonzalez as the Nats' starter squared to bunt. Denard Span stepped in next with runners on first and second and lined an RBI single to center that brought Espinosa in. 2-2. 22-pitch frame, 83 total for Iglesias.
Clint Robinson (2 for 3) singled through short with one down in the sixth and a took third on a two-out, line drive single off the right field wall by Danny Espinosa. Michael Taylor got a two-out RBI opportunity and bounced a hanging slider off the facade of the second deck in left. 5-2 Nationals on Taylor's three-run bomb.
The second HBP of the game on Gonzalez ended Iglesias' day...
• Raisel Iglesias' Line: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 105 P, 75 S, 2 HBP, 4/3 GO/FO.
3. Desmond Watch: Ian Desmond singled in his first at bat last night in Cincinnati, giving the 29-year-old Nationals' shortstop hits is 13-straight games, over which he was 19 for 54 (.352/.386/.574) with six doubles and two home runs, taking him from a .225/.277/.341 line on May 13th to a .260/.307/.406 line on the year after his 2 for 5 game against the Reds in Great American Ball Park. The streak was the second-longest of Desmond's career, and the second-longest by any Nationals' hitter this season, behind Wilson Ramos' 19-game hit streak, which lasted from April 24-May 19th.
Could Desmond extend his hit streak with another knock this afternoon?
Desmond was 0 for 3 with a K the first three times up against Reds' right-hander Raisel Iglesias, and 0 for 4 after grounding out in the seventh against former teammate Ryan Mattheus.
He got one more shot in the top of the ninth... against Aroldis Chapman.. and... he walked. Hit streak over.
2. Turning Point(s): Reds' righty Raisel Iglesias left an 0-1 slider up for Yunel Escobar with two down in the top of the first inning, and Escobar lined it to the left field corner for his sixth double of the season. Ryan Zimmerman stepped in next and took a 94 mph 1-2 sinker back up the middle for an RBI single that made it 1-0 Nationals.
• The Reds loaded the bases with one out on a frustrated and talking to himself Gio Gonzalez in the bottom of the first inning, but the Nats' lefty got a line drive to short out of Brayan Pena to start an inning-ending, unassisted DP.
• Billy Hamilton was on third base with one down in the Reds' half of the hird, after a single, botched pickoff attempt and a groundout, when Joey Votto stepped in against Gio Gonzalez, got to a 2-2 count and got hold of a 92 mph fastball that ended up clearing the center field wall. Votto's 9th and his second in two games after he went homer-less in his first 96 plate appearances this month. 2-1 Reds.
• Danny Espinosa singled to start the fifth, moved into scoring position on a HBP on Gio Gonzalez and scored on a single to center by Denard Span to tie it up at 2-2.
• Clint Robinson singled with one down in the Nats' sixth, took third on a two-out single by Danny Espinosa and then scored on a three-run home run to left by Michael Taylor, who took a hanging slider from Raisel Iglesias for a ride and bounced a bomb of a homer off the facade of the second deck. 5-2 Nationals on Taylor's fourth.
• Gio Gonzalez struggled with his command in the bottom of the sixth, after he was hit by a pitch on the elbow in the top of the inning, and he gave up a walk, a ground-rule double and two runs on an RBI groundout by Jay Bryce and an RBI single by Brayan Pena that got the Reds within one before he was done. 5-4 Nationals.
1. The Wrap-Up: Former Nationals' reliever Ryan Mattheus recorded the final out of the top of the sixth after taking over on the mound for Raisel Iglesias.
Blake Treinen took over for Gio Gonzalez with a runner on first and a one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth. A wild pitch allowed Brayan Pena to take second, but Marlon Byrd K'd swinging over a filthy slider for out no.2. Zack Cosart was up when another wild pitch moved Pena to third, but he K'd swinging to end the inning.
Ryan Mattheus came back out for the seventh inning and gave up a two-out single by Ryan Zimmerman, but nothing else. Though Yunel Escobar did get tossed for arguing balls and strikes with home plate ump Andy Fletcher.
Treinen came back out for the Reds' seventh, but when pinch hitter Brennan Boesch was announced, Matt Williams went to the pen for Matt Thornton, who retired the side in order in a 10-pitch frame.
J.J. Hoover retired the Nats in order in the top of the eighth.
Casey Janssen retired Joey Votto, but Todd Frazier hit a long fly ball to center field where... Denard Span pulled it back in. Span didn't make the catch, but he pulled it back into play. Double for Frazier. Jay Bruce walked to put two on with one out. Brayan Pena sent a sharp grounder to first, off Ryan Zimmerman's glove and over to Dan Uggla, but Janssen wasn't covering first.
Bases loaded, one out for Marlon Byrd, who lined out to second. Zack Cosart? Two-run double to center on a 1-2 cutter. Billy Hamilton followed with a two-run single to right, 8-5 Reds.
Aroldis Chapman came on to close it out and issued back-to-back one-out walks to Denard Span and Ian Desmond before striking Dan Uggla out with a 102 mph fastball for out no.2. Ryan Zimmerman? Swinging K. 102 again.
Nationals now 28-21