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Nationals rally but fall short, 6-5 Padres final in the nation's capital

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Gio Gonzalez was out early, leaving the Washington Nationals in a 5-1 hole, but the Nationals battled back against San Diego starter Tyson Ross and the Padres' pen, and had a chance to tie it when an ill-advised 3-0 swing stopped a rally in its tracks.

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5. Gio vs San Diego: Gio Gonzalez had an eight-start unbeaten streak, which stretched back to June 15th, snapped in his August 15th start in San Francisco, and he followed up on that outing with a less-than-stellar performance in a 10-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers last time out.

In his last two starts before tonight's, in the second game of three with the San Diego Padres, Gonzalez allowed 13 hits, four walks and 11 runs, 10 earned, in 7 ⅔ innings pitched, over which opposing hitters put up a .382/.425/.647 line.

"Falling behind on hitters wasn't making it easier, especially when your team just gave you two runs in the first two innings." -Gio Gonzalez on struggles in start vs SF Giants

Three of the five runs the Brewers scored on Gonzalez came in the fifth inning of his last start, after he was hit by a liner back to the mound. He gave up a leadoff single, sac fly and two-run blast before he finished the frame.

Neither Nats' skipper Matt Williams he wasn't sure what, if any, effect the liner had on the left-hander, however.

"Ball got him right above the ankle, so... don't know," Williams said.

"As you have adrenaline out there, you're not feeling it too much. He said he was fine. Didn't have an issue. Threw a pitch right after and said he was good. Don't know what effect it may have had.

"The homer he had him two strikes, wasn't a bad pitch, in at the belt, but he was able to get to it. We won't know exactly how much it affected him or not."

"I don’t think it [affected me]," Gonzalez told reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner. "I’m fine now... Next time I’ll just go out there and pitch with a shin guard."

The loss to Milwaukee left the lefty (9-6) on the year, with a 3.98 ERA, a 3.15 FIP, 49 walks (3.37 BB/9) and 117 Ks (8.04 K/9) in 23 starts and 131 IP this season, over which opposing hitters have put up a .277/.345/.400 line.

Gonzalez's 24th start of the season began with a single and a walk by Yangervis Solarte and Melvin Upton, Jr., respectively. but three outs later, both runners were stranded on the corners at the end of a 26-pitch frame.

Derek Norris lined an 0-1 single to left to start the Padres' second, but he was caught stealing one out later and a fly to right ended a 10-pitch second by Gonzalez, who was up to 36 total after two.

Tyson Ross singled to left field in the first at bat of the third, and moved up a throwing error by Yunel Escobar one out later. Matt Kemp stepped in next and sliced a two-run double to right that put the Padres up, 2-0.

Justin Upton got hold of an 0-1 fastball in the at bat that followed and hit a two-run blast out to the left field bullpen. 4-0 Padres. 20-pitch frame, 56 total for Gonzalez after three.

Austin Hedges hit the fourth straight leadoff single to center field and a walk to Clint Barmes put two on again with no one out. Tyson Ross bunted them over/gave up an out, and Hedges scored from third on a pop to foul territory off first that Ryan Zimmerman caught. 5-0 Padres. Gonzalez up to 72 pitches after a 16-pitch frame.

Jedd Gyorko singled by third with two out in the top of the fifth, so Matt Williams went to the pen.

Gio Gonzalez's Line: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 86 P, 56 S, 2/1 GO/FO.

4. The Other Ross Brother: In praising the work right-hander Joe Ross has done in his first taste of major league action this season, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo talked in an MLB Network Radio interview late last month about what role Tyson Ross has played in his younger brother's development.

"The influence his brother has had on him must be terrific," Rizzo said, "because this guy, at [22], when we started talking about bringing him up, people thought we were crazy -- some in the organization thought we were crazy -- but what I saw was in this guy was a poised, polished young man that pounded the bottom half of the strike zone with some sink at the end of it, 95 and with a good slider and he shows you all the skills of a really good starting major league pitcher."

Joe's older brother debuted in the majors at 23 with the Oakland A's in 2010 after he was drafted by the Athletics in the 2nd Round of the '08 Draft.

Traded to the Padres in 2012, the now-28-year-old righty has put up a 3.32 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 70 walks (4.15 BB/9), 160 Ks (9.49 K/9) and a .247/.336/.332 line against in 151 ⅔  so far this season, in his sixth major league campaign.

The Nationals collected five hits, three walks and two runs against Ross in an 8-3 win when they faced the righty in Petco Park earlier this season.

Tonight, in Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Park, the elder Ross brother was facing the Nationals for the second time in 2015 and the second time in his career, coming off a strong six-inning start at home against the Atlanta Braves which saw him give up six hits, three walks and one earned run.

Denard Span doubled to right in the first at bat of the bottom of the first and took third on a groundout to second, but was stranded at third two outs later. 15-pitch frame.

Yunel Escobar singled to start the Nationals' second and took third on a two-out fly to left by Wilson Ramos that Matt Kemp misjudged and couldn't catch, but both runners were stranded when Gio Gonzalez K'd swinging to end a 19-pitch frame. 34 total for Ross after two.

Given a 4-0 lead to work with, Ross retired the Nationals in order, striking out two in a 15-pitch third that left him at 49 pitches.

Bryce Harper walked to start the Nationals' fourth, took second on a groundout to first off Yunel Escobar's bat, third on a pickoff attempt gone wrong for the Padres with Ryan Zimmerman up and scored on a groundout to the right side, 5-1. 12-pitch frame, 61 total.

An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left Ross at 72 pitches.

Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper hit back-to-back one-out singles in the bottom of the sixth and both moved up on a wild pitch with Yunel Escobar up. Escobar walked to load'em up for Ryan Zimmerman, whose sac fly to right scored Rendon from third, 5-2. Ian Desmond stepped in with two out and went down swinging to strand two at the end of a 21-pitch frame that push Ross up to 93 pitches.

A one-out HBP on Clint Robinson's foot gave the Nationals a runner in the home-half of the seventh and Denard Span doubled to right to second him around to third.

• Tyson Ross' Line: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 9 Ks, 104 P, 64 S, 7/1 GO/FO.

3. Random Game Notes: Padres' infielder Jedd Gyorko hit two home runs in last night's series opener. It was the third two-home run game of his career and second this season.

• Matt Kemp went 0 for 3 with a walk in last night's game, extending his on-base streak to 16 games, over which the veteran outfielder has a .344/.389/.578 line.

• Tyson Ross has allowed just five home runs in 151 ⅔ this season, the lower HR/9 (0.30 HR/9) ratio in the majors. Gio Gonzalez's (0.41 HR/9) is the second-lowest.

• Anthony Rendon has reached base safely in nine of his last 14 plate appearances, and he's 5 for 10 with a double and two home runs in his last three games.

• Wilson Ramos is 5 for 10 with a double and two homers in his last three starts as well.

• In today's "Fun with Arbitrary End Points"/Ian Desmond update: Desmond has put up a .306/.368/.526 line in his last 33 games, going back to July 20th, with five doubles, a triple, eight home runs, 12 walks and six stolen bases over that stretch.

• Gio Gonzalez took the mound tonight against the Padres (2-0) in three career starts vs San Diego with a 2.33 ERA in 19 ⅓ innings pitched.

2. Turning Point(s): Padres' starter Tyson Ross was the third straight leadoff batter to reach base in the first three innings against Gio Gonzalez. The Nationals' lefty managed to work around the runners he put on in the first two frames, but an error by Yunel Escobar in the third put two runners on in front of Matt Kemp, who sliced a two-run double to right to put San Diego up, 2-0. Justin Upton stepped in next and hit an 0-1 fastball out to left for a two-run homer that made it 4-0 Padres.

1. The Wrap-Up: Doug Fister took over on the mound for Gio Gonzalez with a runner on and two out in the Padres' fifth, and got an inning-ending groundout to strand Jedd Gyorko.

Fister came back out for the sixth inning, and got some help from Bryce Harper on a strong throw in from right field.

Austin Hedges and Tyson Ross singled, but on a fly to right with one down, both runners tried to advance and Ross got thrown out at second to end the frame.

Fister retired the first two batters he faced in the seventh before giving up a solo home run to center by Justin Upton that made it 6-2 Padres after six and a half.

Padres' righty Shawn Kelley took over for Tyson Ross with runners on second and third and one out in the Nationals' seventh and walked Jayson Werth to load'em up for Anthony Rendon, who walked to make it 6-3.

Marc Rzepczynski came on to face Bryce Harper with the bases loaded and one out and gave up a two-run double on an 0-1 slider. 6-5. Yunel Escobar started up, 3-0, and got the green light... then grounded into an inning-ending 5-4-3.

Drew Storen came on in the eighth and retired the Padres in order on 13 pitches. Still 6-5 San Diego.

Joaquin Benoit came on for the Padres in the bottom of the eighth and retired the side in order in a 15-pitch frame.

Jonathan Papelbon retired the side in order in a ten-pitch top of the ninth.

Craig Kimbrel came on to close it in the Nationals' half of the ninth inning and retired the Nationals in order.

Ballgame.

Nationals now 63-62