5. Gio in PNC: Gio Gonzalez threw seven scoreless against the Pittsburgh Pirates when they visited the nation's capital in late June, giving up four hits and two walks in an 85-pitch outing in which he earned his fifth win of the season.
It was, Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams said, an aggressive day on the mound for the 29-year-old left-hander.
"He was aggressive from the first inning," Williams said. "Not necessarily pitching laterally, but pitching vertically. So, for him that's the key, if he can throw strikes then his stuff is really good.
"The issues come when he allows bases on balls. Today he didn't do that. For the most part he was throwing it where he wanted to, both in and out and using the curveball effectively."
It was the first start of the season, and the only one thus far, in which Gonzalez avoided giving up any walks.
In three starts since he last faced the Pirates, the Nationals' lefty has gone (2-0) with a 1.89 ERA, six walks and 15 Ks in 19 innings pitched, over which he's held opposing hitters to a .243/.303/.357 line against.
Those outings left Gonzalez (7-4) in seventeen starts on the year, with a 3.93 ERA, a 3.26 FIP, 39 walks (3.49 BB/9), 87 Ks (7.78 K/9) and a .273/.346/.394 line against in 100 ⅔ IP.
He's struggled away from home, however, with a 5.36 ERA, a 3.46 FIP and .302/.379/.455 line against on the road and a 2.50 ERA, 3.06 FIP and .241/.309/.330 line in Nationals Park.
Gonzalez was making his second career start in PNC, the first since back in 2013, when he gave up five hits and two runs in a win over the Pirates.
Gonzalez retired the side in order in a 16-pitch first, striking Andrew McCutchen out to end the frame.
Given a 1-0 lead to work with, Gonzalez worked around a one-out single by Jung Ho Kang for a scoreless, 12-pitch second that left him at 28 total after two.
Gregory Polanco doubled to center with two down in the Pirates' third, taking a 2-2 changeup for a ride, but he was stranded when Starling Marte grounded out to second to end an 11-pitch third. 39 total.
With the score 3-0 Nationals, Gonzalez set the side down in order in the bottom of the fourth. His 16-pitch frame left him at 55 total.
A nine-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left Gonzalez at 64 total after five.
With the score 5-0 Nationals, Pedro Alvarez singled to right field to start the Pirates' sixth, and Clint Robinson booted a grounder off Gregory Polanco's bat, allowing Alvarez to take third as the ball bounced into foul territory.
Alvarez then scored on an RBI single to right by Starling Marte that made it 5-1 Nationals.
Andrew McCutchen stepped in with runners on the corners and no one out and singled to left to make it 5-2 Nats.
That was it for Gonzalez...
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks, 74 P, 50 S, 6/0 GO/FO.
4. A.J. vs D.C.: A.J. Burnett gave up a career-high 14 hits in 6 ⅔ innings pitched in a 4-1 loss to the Nationals when the Pirates visited Washington back on June 19th. Pittsburgh's 17-year veteran walked one and struck out seven in the 98-pitch outing.
Before the game, Nats' skipper Matt Williams talked about how his hitters would approach the 38-year-old right-hander.
"The reports that we have on him [are] that he's throwing more fastballs this year, less curveballs, more fastballs," he said. "He's having a great year. We know that he's certainly comfortable in Pittsburgh."
"He's performing for them very, very well. For us, it's getting good ones to hit. Ball sinks a lot, he throws the ball to both corners and he knows how to pitch."
Burnett hung around until the seventh in spite of the all the hits he was giving up, which impressed his manager, Clint Hurdle.
"'I don't think I've had a pitcher go into the seventh inning having given up double-digit hits and the game is still in hand,'" Hurdle told reporters, including Triblive.com's Rob Biertempfel.
"'It was an impressive outing. He made pitches when he had to and found ways to get outs.'"
"The ball was up a little bit for A.J. tonight and we took advantage of it," Williams said.
In five starts since the Nationals last saw him, Burnett has gone (2-0) with the Pirates 4-1 in his outings in which he's put up a 3.55 ERA and a .282/.342/.412 line against in 33 IP, earning his eighth win of the season last time out in a six-inning start in which he gave up 11 hits and six earned runs.
On the year, he was (8-3) with a 2.44 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 34 walks (2.44 BB/9), 102 Ks (7.32 K/9) and a .259/.317/.349 line against in 125 ⅓ innings pitched before facing the Nationals again.
Tonight in PNC Park, Burnett gave up a leadoff single to right by Michael Taylor, who took second on an errant pick attempt and third on a one-out groundout to second by Bryce Harper before he was stranded when Yunel Escobar K'd swinging to end a 15-pitch frame.
Ian Desmond singled with one out in the second and took third on a line drive to left-center by Jose Lobaton in the next at bat. Matt den Dekker stepped in next with runners on the corners and a wild pitch allowed Desmond to score from third when Burnett failed to cover home. 1-0 Nationals. 13-pitch second for Burnett, 28 total.
The Nationals went down in order in a 13-pitch third that left Burnett at 41 pitches.
Yunel Escobar doubled to right-center field to start the Nationals' fourth and Burnett hit Clint Robinson to put two on in front of Ian Desmond, who bunted both runners over/gave up an out. Burnett hit Jose Lobaton too, loading the bases for Matt den Dekker, who K'd looking. 7 Ks. Gio Gonzalez stepped in with two down and hit a grounder back to the mound that bounced off Burnett for an infield single. 2-0 Nats. Michael Taylor singled to right to bring Robinson in, but Jose Lobaton was thrown out at home to end a 20-pitch frame that left Burnett at 61 pitches.
Bryce Harper doubled to center with one down in the fifth, bouncing one off the fence a few feet from a home run, and then took third on a line drive single to right by Yunel Escobar before scoring on an opposite field single to left-center by Clint Robinson, 4-0 Nats. 18-pitch frame for Burnett. 79 total.
Matt den Dekker reached on a broken-bat dribbler in the first at bat of the sixth. Michael Taylor connected for his third hit of the night in the next at bat, sending den Dekker to third. Taylor stole second in the next at bat, and den Dekker scored on a sac fly to right by Anthony Rendon. 5-0 Nationals. Burnett done.
• A.J. Burnett's Line: 5.2 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 91 P, 67 S, 3/2 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: With back-to-back wins in the first two of four with the Nationals, the Pirates have won 16 of their last 24 games in spite of losing five of the first six out of the Break. They're also 10-1 in their last eleven games in PNC Park.
• The Pirates are 7-2 in games against a left-hander starter in PNC Park this season.
• A.J. Burnett has the second-lowest home ERA in the NL (1.58) this season.
• Pittsburgh's hitters have connected for six home runs in the first two games against Washington before tonight, and they're 15-3 when they home twice in a game this season.
• For tonight's "Fun with arbitrary end points" segment, Andrew McCutchen is 81 for 243 (.333) with a .430 OBP since May 7th, fifth in AVG in the NL since then and 3rd in OBP (.430).
• Bryce Harper went 1 for 2 with two walks last night. When he walked with one out in the fourth, he reached base for the 21st straight game, a career-high. He extended that streak to 22-straight games with a double in the 5th.
• Harper leads the majors in OBP (.465) and slugging percentage (.683). He's tied for third in the majors in HRs with 27, but he still hasn't homered in PNC Park in 31 plate appearances. Seriously, Bryce? C'mon.
Just this. pic.twitter.com/Dt1xnwgESc— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) July 25, 2015
• Gio Gonzalez took the mound (3-0) with a 2.95 ERA in seven career starts against the Pirates.
2. Turning Point(s): Suddenly-hot Ian Desmond was 8 for 16 with three home runs in his last five games coming into tonight's matchup with the Pirates. He was 9 for 17 with a six-game hit streak after he singled to right with one out in the second and Desmond scored one out later on a wild pitch from A.J. Burnett to put the Nationals up 1-0 early in the third game of the four-game set in PNC Park.
• The Nationals loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but it looked like A.J. Burnett might escape damage after Matt den Dekker K'd looking, brining Gio Gonzalez to the plate. Burnett got up 0-2, but a grounder back to the mound bounced off the Pirates starter for an infield single that made it 2-0 Nationals. Michael Taylor drove in another run, but Jose Lobaton was gunned down at home for the third out of the frame. 3-0 Nats.
• Bryce Harper doubled to center with one down in the fifth (no.23) and Yunel Escobar and Clint Robinson followed with back-to-back singles with Harper scoring on Robinson's to make it 4-0 Nationals.
• Pedro Alvarez singled to start the Pirates' 6th, but it was an error by Clint Robinson on a Gregory Polanco grounder to first that opened the floodgates some. Alvarez took third on the error and scored on a single by Starling Marte.
Andrew McCutchen followed with an RBI single to left that brought Polanco around, 5-2, and that was it for Gio Gonzalez in PNC. The Pirates added a run before Aaron Barrett and Felipe Rivero combined to end the threat.
5-3 Nationals after six.
• Yunel Escobar doubled to start the seventh, and scored when Ian Desmond hit his third home run in three games in PNC Park out to left field. 7-3 Nats on Desmond's 11th.
1. The Wrap-Up: Pirates' right-hander Deolis Guerra came on to record the final out in the Nationals' half of the sixth.
With runners on first and second and no one out in the sixth, Aaron Barrett came on to face once-and-current Pirates' third baseman Aramis Ramirez and got a 6-4-3 DP. Jung Ho Kang took a 94 mph heater in the shoulder to give the Bucs runners on the corners again, and Francisco Cervelli singled to center to make it a two-run game. 5-3.
Felipe Rivero came on to flip Neil Walker around, and got a fly to right to end the threat in the 6th.
Guerra came back out for the top of the seventh, and gave up a leadoff double to left by Yunel Escobar, who missed a home run by a few feet, bouncing his 17th double off the wall and one out later he came home the easy way when Ian Desmond sent a screamer out to left field for a line drive homer. Two-run blast. 7-3 Nationals.
Rivero came back out for the bottom of the seventh inning and retired the Pirates in order in a 12-pitch frame.
Arquimedes Caminero walked Emmanuel Burriss to start the top of the eighth, and gave up a two-run home run to center by Michael Taylor, who collected his fourth hit of the game and 7th home run of the season. 9-3 Nationals.
Tanner Roark threw a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth and came back out for the ninth. Francisco Cervelli lined a one-out single to left, but was stranded two outs later. Ballgame. 9-3 final.
Nationals now 52-44