5. Gio vs Chicago: Two of the four runs Washington Nationals' left-hander Gio Gonzalez was charged with in his last start, against the Cincinnati Reds last weekend in Great American Ballpark, came in his final inning of work in the bottom of the sixth, after he was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game in the top of the frame. Gonzalez took a pitch on his left elbow guard, but shook it off and returned to the mound only to give up a leadoff walk, a ground-rule double, an RBI groundout and a run-scoring single before he was lifted in favor of reliever Blake Treinen.
Gonzalez ended up allowing seven hits, two walks and four runs, all earned, in 5 ⅓ IP in what ended up an 8-5 loss to the Reds in which he received no decision, giving him a stretch of five starts in May in which he avoided taking a loss. He left the outing against the Reds with the Nationals still up, 5-4.
"I thought he was okay," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after Gonzalez's 99-pitch effort, which was decided in a four-run eighth in which Casey Janssen gave up the lead. "He still had his pitch count all right and even being hit in the [elbow] pad he was okay to go back out there. Ran into some trouble. So the fact of the matter is we've got our eighth inning guy with a one-run lead, we'll take that every single day. It didn't work out for us today, but we'll take it every day and have an opportunity to win that game."
Gonzalez finished the month of May (3-0) in six starts with the Nationals 5-1 in his outings, over which the 29-year-old lefty put up a 4.54 ERA, a 2.87 FIP, 10 walks (2.52 BB/9) and 34 Ks (8.58 K/9) in 35 ⅔ IP in which opposing hitters posted a combined .288/.340/.413 line against him.
Tonight in Nationals Park, Gonzalez was facing the Chicago Cubs for the first time this season, after missing them last week during the Nationals' visit to Wrigley Field, and the seventh time in his career after going (3-1) with a 2.39 ERA, 10 walks (2.39 BB/9) and 38 Ks (9.08 K/9) in 37 ⅔ innings pitched in the previous six outings, in which he held Cubs' hitters to a combined .194/.248/.254 line.
Gonzalez's outing began with a single to right field, a walk and a base-loading line drive to right by Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, respectively. Cubs' outfielder Junior Lake worked the count full in the at bat that followed, and took a walk to force in a run on Gonzalez's 20th pitch of the inning. 1-0 Chicago.
Gonzalez got a 6-4-3 DP out of Starlin Castro, but Bryant scored, 2-0 after a 32-pitch first.
After the long first, Gonzalez set the Cubs' 7-8-9 hitters down in order, striking out the side in a 12-pitch frame. 44 total.
Anthony Rendon ranged to his left and made a strong sidearm throw to first base on a Dexter Fowler grounder to start the Cubs' third, and Gonzalez tumbled into first base and somehow touched the bag on a grounder to first by Kris Bryant for the second out of the frame. Denard Span did his thing on a hard-hit liner to center by Anthony Rizzo, and Gio had a quick, scoreless, eight-pitch frame. 52 overall.
Junior Lake bunted his way on in the first at bat of the fourth, and stole second on a curve in the dirt from Gonzalez that got away from Nats' catcher Jose Lobaton. Lake stole third with two down after a walk to David Ross brought the pitcher up, but he was stranded there when Jake Arrieta grounded into a force at second to end a 19-pitch fourth that left Gonzalez at 71 pitches.
Addison Russell worked a 10-pitch walk out of Gonzalez to start the fifth, and took second on a single to center by Kris Bryant with one down. Anthony Rizzo grounded into a force at second for out no.2, and Russell got picked off on an attempted delayed double steal of home. 1-3-2 and out. Gonzalez picked Rizzo off trying to take second and Ryan Zimmerman threw home when Russell broke from third. 24-pitch frame. 95 pitches.
An eight-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth left Gonzalez at 103 pitches.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 Ks, 103 P, 66 S, 7/1 GO/FO.
4. Davey on Arrieta's "spitter": We've told this story every time the Nats have faced Jake Arrieta since 2012, so bear with us, like you do with that drunk at the bar or family gathering who repeats the same stories every time you see him/her, because in this case, it's a good one...
Former Nationals' skipper Davey Johnson was a subtle manipulator on occasion, planting seeds in the media that seemed innocuous at first, but served a purpose.
For example, there was that one time, after a May 18, 2012 game against the Baltimore Orioles, a team Johnson played for and managed long before he took over on the bench in Washington, that he took a shot at the O's starter.
Orioles' right-hander Jake Arrieta held the Nationals to six hits and one run in a 2-1 win in the series opener of a three-game set, but knowing that Washington would see him again in another series in June, Johnson took the opportunity to sneak in a jab in at the pitcher in his post game press conference.
"[Arrieta] made some good pitches," Johnson told reporters. "At certain times we took fastballs right there. He had a little slider and decent curve ball. I complained early on because he'd go to his mouth two or three times and I didn't see a real good wipe. I wasn't accusing him of throwing a spitter, but I said, I'd like to see a better wipe. I didn't realize he was that fidgety, he's got all kinds of moves out there..."
It was a throwaway line at the end of his meeting with reporters, but it definitely got back to the Orioles' righty, as was evident when Arrieta took to Twitter, or "the Tweeter" as Johnson referred to it, two days later:
Workin on my spitter in the pen today..— Jake Arrieta (@JArrieta34) May 20, 2012
The initial comment barely garnered any attention, but Arrieta heard it, or someone told him, but somehow, the word got back to him and annoyed/humored him enough that he responded to Johnson's snipe. Did it have any effect?
Not really. Arrieta limited the Nationals to five hits and one earned run when he faced them again a month later.
Those 2012 outings were the best of the 29-year-old right-hander's career against the Nationals, but he didn't earn a win in either.
He took the mound in the nation's capital tonight in a Cubs uniform (0-1) in six career starts against Washington with a 5.81 ERA, 15 walks (4.35 BB/9) and 29 Ks (8.42 K/9) in 31 IP against the Nationals in his six-year career, over which Nats' hitters had a .283/.374/.417 line against him.
In 10 starts this season before this evening's the veteran right-hander was (4-4) with a 3.18 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 14 walks (1.94 BB/9) and 67 Ks (9.28 K/9) in 65 IP, in which opposing hitters had a .236/.360/.636 line.
Arrieta took the mound with a 2-0 lead, gave up a one-out single by Anthony Rendon, but got a strike'em out, throw'em out DP to end a 19-pitch first. A 13-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Arrieta at 32 pitches.
Michael Taylor reached on a swinging bunt with one down in the Nationals' third, and after Gio Gonzalez K'd trying to bunt, stole second base, but he was stranded there when Denard Span K'd swinging to end a 21-pitch frame. 53 total for Arrieta after three.
Danny Espinosa bunted his way on with one down in the Nats' fourth, but one out later he was caught trying to take second for out no.3 of a 10-pitch fourth that pushed Arrieta up to 63 pitches. The call was challenged, and in spite of the video evidence, upheld.
Jose Lobaton doubled to left field with two down in the Nationals' fifth, but Michael Taylor lined out to right to end a 15-pitch frame by Arrieta, who was up to 78 pitches after five scoreless.
Denard Span lined a one-out single to left-center on an 0-1 slider from Arrieta. Anthony Rendon doubled to right by a diving Junior Lake in the next at bat sending Span around to third, and a HBP on Danny Espinosa loaded the bases for Bryce Harper as Arrieta began to struggle.
Harper stepped in and sent a chopper over the mound for an RBI groundout. 2-1 Cubs.
Ryan Zimmerman took a glancing blow on another HBP to load'em back up, and Ian Desmond... lined out to Anthony Rizzo at first. 19-pitch frame for Arrieta, 97 total.
• Jake Arrieta's Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 2 HBPs, 97 P, 63 S, 2/2 GO/FO.
3. HE'S BACK!!: The Nationals reinstated Anthony Rendon from the DL this afternoon after three-plus months spent working his way back from an MCL sprain suffered this Spring and an oblique strain suffered during his first rehab stint at the end of April/early May. He had an interesting answer for a reporter who asked this afternoon exactly how he had injured the oblique:
Rendon on how he hurt his oblique: 'I think just hitting too many homers. What kind of question is that? I don't know. It just happened.'— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) June 4, 2015
In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier this afternoon, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo talked about what Rendon brought to the lineup now that he was set to make his 2015 debut.
"He plays terrific second base," Rizzo said. "He's a great third baseman and middle of the order hitter. He was fifth in MVP voting last year and the guy hasn't played for us yet this year, so we miss him badly as any team would.
"Offensively he adds another great hitter that makes contact, has got power, hits for high average, grinds out pitchers and plays great defense, a great baserunner and an all-around top-flight big league player. So without him we have not been as good, with him we'll instantly be better."
Rendon's return, Rizzo said, "... will be a jumpstart for our offense and for our team because we miss him, not only in the lineup and on the field, but in the clubhouse and being around the team. He's got a bright demeanor and he's a happy-go-lucky guy and a guy that really changes the dynamic of the lineup."
After a +6.5 fWAR campaign in 2014 in which the 24-year-old 2011 1st Round pick, who'll turn 25 on June 6th, put up a .287/.351/.473 line with 39 doubles and 21 HRs in 153 games and 683 plate appearances, Rendon's third major league season started with him working the count full after starting down 0-2 and lining a single to right.
1 for 1 on the year.
Rendon was 2 for 3 after he doubled to right in the sixth. 2 for 4 after he struck out in the seventh. He'd get one more at bat in the ninth... [ed. note - "See below."]
2. Turning Point(s): Gio Gonzalez needed 32 pitches to get through the first, loading the bases and walking in a run before getting a double play grounder, on which another run scored and a groundout to second to limit the damage, but before they came up to bat the Nationals were in a 2-0 hole.
• The Nationals loaded the bases with one down in the sixth, and Bryce Harper drove in a run with a groundout to short, on which he appeared to beat the throw to first. Unfortunately for the Nats, however, a blown replay call on an attempted stolen base by Danny Espinosa earlier in the game cost them their challenge so they couldn't ask for a second look at first base ump Rob Drake's blown call. Harper was safe. Hmm. Where do I remember Rob Drake's name from? Ian Desmond ended up lining out to end the frame, leaving'em loaded and the Cubs took a one-run lead to the seventh.
1. The Wrap-Up: Blake Treinen retired the Cubs' in order in a dominant 14-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh.
Cubs' righty Justin Grimm walked Jose Lobaton to start the Nationals' half of the seventh, and speedy Michael Taylor reached safely, hustling down the line to beat out a popped up bunt that a charging Anthony Rizzo couldn't catch. Dan Uggla stepped in next and popped out to foul territory off first on a 2-1 pitch after squaring to bunt earlier in the count.
Cubs skipper Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for left-hander James Russell with Denard Span due up. Span popped out on a 1-1 curve, bringing Anthony Rendon to the plate. Rendon vs Jason Motte?
Motte got up 0-2 quickly and struck Rendon out with a 98 mph 2-2 fastball. Still 2-1 Cubs.
Matt Thornton gave up a single up the middle (through his legs) off Dexter Fowler's bat in the first AB of the eighth, and one out later Fowler took third on a broken-bat liner to right by Anthony Rizzo.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams went to the pen for Aaron Barrett with Junior Lake due up, so Maddon went with pinch hitter Chris Coghlan, but Barrett got an inning-ending DP he was looking for, 6-4-3. Still 2-1 Cubs.
Pedro Strop walked Bryce Harper with one down in the bottom of the eighth, but two outs later Harper was stranded.
Barrett came back out for the top of the ninth and retired the Cubs in order in a 15-pitch frame.
Hector Rondon gave up a one-out single by Michael Taylor and walked Clint Robinson to put two on. Denard Span lined out to center for out no.2. Anthony Rendon stepped in with two on and two out and... Clint Robinson got picked off first. Ballgame.
Nationals now 29-25