5. Gio vs STL: Washington Nationals' left-hander Gio Gonzalez put together an eight-start unbeaten streak between June 21st and August 10th, posting a 1.48 ERA and a .245/.296/.326 line against in 48 ⅔ innings pitched over that stretch.
Before taking the mound tonight to face the St. Louis Cardinals, however, the 29-year-old left-hander had dropped three straight outings.
After the loss to the Padres in the nation's capital, in which Gonzalez threw 86 pitches in 4 ⅔ innings, Matt Williams talked about the trouble the lefty caused for himself by letting the leadoff runner on in four of five innings.
"We talk about it all the time," Williams said. "It's traffic. It's traffic for the pitcher. Out of the stretch, rhythm is certainly different. So, we talk about it with regard to our offense all time. It just makes it more difficult, puts pressure on."
Gonzalez, however, said having runners on wasn't really a big issue.
"You've got to pitch either way," he told reporters. "It's a team that's going to put runners on base and you've still got to pitch whether from the windup or the stretch."
Asked what was causing him the most trouble in the loss, Gonzalez said, "Nothing."
"Not really anything. I was pounding the strike zone, I was getting ahead of the hitters, maybe walked two guys. Other than that, typical start."
Tonight he was facing a St. Louis Cardinals team he'd done well against in the past, going (2-1) in four starts with a 0.93 ERA and a .221/.277/.279 line against in 29 innings pitched.
The fifth regular season start of his career against the Cardinals began with a scoreless, 18-pitch first in which the left-hander worked around a two-out single by shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
Gonzalez struck out two Cards' hitters in a quick, 15-pitch, 1-2-3 second. 33 total.
Brandon Moss took the first free pass of the game from Gonzalez in the first at bat of the Cardinals' half of the third, but a bunt by John Lackey was a little too hard, allowing Ryan Zimmerman to throw to second to start a 3-6-4 DP.
A flyout to left ended a quick, 10-pitch frame. 43 total. Still 1-0 Nationals.
Jhonny Peralta took the second walk of the game from Gio Gonzalez with one down in the Cards' fourth, and Jason Heyward reached safely on a swinging bunt.
Yadier Molina stepped in next and lined two right where Bryce Harper made a sliding attempt but came up empty, 1-1.
Kolten Wong singled to center in the next at bat to put the Cardinals up, 2-1. Mark Reynolds lined a single to center in the next at bat to make it 3-1 St. Louis. 29-pitch frame, 72 total.
#KeepTheLineMoving! Four straight hits by the Cardinals as Mark Reynolds hits an RBI single to score Yadier Molina. It's 3-1 St. Louis!— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 1, 2015
Gonzalez bounced back after the long fourth, throwing a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth that left him at 82 total. Another 10-pitch, 1-2-3 frame in the sixth left Gonzalez at 92 pitches.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 92 P, 56 S, 5/7 GO/FO.
4. Lackey vs the Nationals: When veteran right-hander John Lackey faced the Washington Nationals in the nation's capital back in April, the Nats knocked him around, connecting for eight hits and five earned runs in 5 ⅔ innings over which he threw 98 pitches. Lackey received no decision in what ended up a 7-5 win for St. Louis.
That start left the 36-year-old, 13-year veteran (1-0) in three career starts against the Nationals, with a 4.58 ERA and a .266/.298/.405 line in 19 ⅔ IP.
On the year, before Lackey faced the Nationals for the second time this season tonight, he was (11-8) in 26 starts with a 2.92 ERA, a 3.62 FIP, 40 walks (2.08 BB/9) and 127 Ks (6.62 K/9) in 172 ⅔ innings pitched, over which he'd held opposing hitters to a combined .250/.300/.373 line.
At home in Busch Stadium, Lackey was (8-3) in 13 starts (vs 3-5 in 13 away from St. Louis) with a 1.91 ERA (vs 4.12), a 2.87 FIP (vs 4.52) and a .241/.286/.324 line against in 94 IP (vs a .261/.316/.432 line in 78 ⅔ outside of Missouri).
His start in the series opener against the Nationals began with two quick outs, but Bryce Harper reached first base on a two-out error by Cardinals' second baseman Kolten Wong and then scored on a double to the right field corner by Ryan Zimmerman for a 1-0 lead early in the series opener. 19-pitch first for Lackey.
A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Lackey at 33 total after two.
Jayson Werth doubled on a line drive to right with one down in the top of the third and Bryce Harper took a two-out walk, but Haper was forced out at second on a grounder up the middle of Ryan Zimmerman's bat.
Lackey's 23-pitch third left him at 56 total after three. He added two Ks, for six total, in a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth that left at 68 pitches.
Given a 3-1 lead to work with, Lackey retired the first two batters he faced in the fifth before issuing back-to-back, two-out walks to Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon. Bryce Harper stepped in with two on and two out and lined out to center on a 2-2 cutter. 23-pitch frame. 91 total.
Ryan Zimmerman and Yunel Escobar hit back-to-back singles to start the top of the sixth. Zimmerman took third on the Escobar hit and scored on a double play grounder off Ian Desmond's bat. 3-2 Cards. 14-pitch frame, 105 total.
• John Lackey's Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 Ks, 105 P, 63 S, 7/1 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: Since 2012, before the start of tonight's three-game set in St. Louis, the Cardinals held a 16-7 advantage in their head-to-head matchup with the Nationals.
• The Nationals started the series in St. Louis with wins 8 of their last 12 games, outscoring their opponents 71-46 over that stretch.
• Ryan Zimmerman's RBI streak ended at six-straight games in yesterday's win.
• In today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points"/Ian Desmond update, the Nats' veteran shortstop has five doubles, a triple and 10 home runs in 38 games since July 20th, with a .314/.382/.584 line over that stretch.
• Desmond has also hit safely in 13 of his last 15 games, going 19 for 55 over that stretch, with three doubles and three home runs.
• Bryce Harper started the series with an 11-game on-base streck, with hits in 10 of 11 games, five doubles, a home run and seven walks over that stretch.
• Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos started the series in St. Louis with eight-game hitting streaks.
• The Cardinals started the series 24-6 against the Nationals in St. Louis since 2005 and 22-5 at Busch Stadium III.
• The Cards have won seven straight against the Nationals in Busch Stadium and 18 of their last 20.
2. Turning Point(s): Bryce Harper sent a grounder toward second with two out in the opening frame of tonight's game and reached base safely when Cardinals' second baseman Kolten Wong bobbled the ball. Harper extended his on-base streak to 12 straight games on the error and scored the games first run when Ryan Zimmerman followed with an RBI double to right that brought the 22-year-old slugger around. 1-0.
• Gio Gonzalez's second walk of the game, to Jhonny Peralta, and a swinging bunt by Jason Heyward put two on in front of Cards' catcher Yadier Molina in the bottom of the fourth, and the veteran backstop went the other way with a high breaking ball from the Nationals' lefty, sending a line drive to right that a sliding Bryce Harper couldn't catch. 1-1 game.
Kolten Wong stepped in next and singled to center to bring Heyward in for a 2-1 lead. Mark Reynolds followed with the fourth straight hit to make it 3-1 St. Louis.
• Ryan Zimmerman and Yunel Escobar hit back-to-back singles to start the Nationals' sixth, with Zimmerman taking third on Escobar's hit and scoring on a double play grounder off Ian Desmond's bat. 3-2 Cardinals.
• Zimmerman came through again in the top of the seventh, taking a 3-1 change for a ride to center for a three-run home run that put the Nationals up 5-3, but the Cardinals rallied against Casey Janssen in the bottom of the inning, scoring two on singles by Stephen Piscotty and Jhonny Peralta to tie things up at 5-5.
Jason Heyward followed with a two-run double to left off Felipe Rivero that made it 7-5 St. Louis.
1. The Wrap-Up: Cardinals' lefty Kevin Siegrist took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and issued a leadoff walk to Danny Espinosa. Bryce Harper took a two-out walk to put two on in front of Ryan Zimmerman, who got up 3-0, and hit a 3-1 change to center field in Busch Stadium to put the Nationals up 5-3.
With the Nationals ahead, Casey Janssen came on in the bottom of the seventh inning and gave up a leadoff single to center by Mark Reynolds. Brandon Moss sent a broken-bat roller toward and beat Janssen to the bag.
Greg Garcia came on to pinch hit and grounded into a 6-4-3 DP for the first two outs of the frame. Janssen stayed in to face left-handed hitting infielder, Matt Carpenter, and issued a two-out walk. Stephen Piscotty fell behind 0-2, but battled back and lined a 2-2 pitch to left for an RBI single. 5-4 Nationals. Jhonny Peralta got a 2-2 pitch outside and punched it to right. 5-5 game.
Jason Heyward stepped in next against Felipe Rivero, and hit a 96 mph fastball to left for an opposite field double that brought two runs in to make it 7-5 Cardinals.
Heyward takes advantage of the Nationals playing shallow in LF and doubles off the wall. Piscotty, Peralta score! It's 7-5 Cardinals!— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 1, 2015
The Nationals walked Yadier Molina intentionally to get to Kolten Wong, who hit an RBI single to right to make it 8-5 St. Louis.
Steve Cisek gave up a leadoff single by Ian Desmond, but nothing else in a scoreless eighth.
Blake Treinen threw a scoreless bottom of the eighth inning.
Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon hit back-to-back singles to start the ninth, but both of them got caught in-between the base paths on a pitch in the dirt from Trevor Rosenthal and Rendon got tagged out for the first out of the frame.
Bryce Harper walked to bring the potential tying run up in the form of Ryan Zimmerman, but Zim popped out for out no.2. Clint Robinson came up with two out and went down swinging. Ballgame.
Nationals now 66-64