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Nationals 12-2 over Phillies: Bryce Harper hits 40th HR, Gio Gonzalez strikes out 12

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Bryce Harper hit his 40th home run of the season. Jayson Werth homered twice, for four in the three-game set in Citizens Bank Park. Gio Gonzalez struck out 12 Philadelphia Phillies, and the Washington Nationals swept the series in CBP. 12-2 tonight.

Photo used with permission of owner.
Photo used with permission of owner.

5. Gio in PHI: Gio Gonzalez opened his 2015 campaign with a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park in which he gave up five hits, four walks and three earned runs and struck out four in 6 ⅓ innings.

That early-season outing began with the Washington Nationals' left-hander throwing six scoreless frames, but back-to-back one-out walks and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases and all three runners he put on eventually came around to score after he was lifted.

"I just think he established low strike today, which helps with his breaking ball because it's a big sweeping breaker that gets down below the zone..." -Matt Williams on Gio Gonzalez's win over the Phillies in May

"He just lost the strike zone," Williams said of Gonzalez's struggles late in that start. "He still hadn't given up a run, but he walked two guys and a hit a guy in that inning, so, he just lost it. Lost the command he had for the six innings prior. Not bad, but just off the plate."

A month later, Gonzalez faced the Nationals' NL East rivals again, going 6 ⅓ innings in a 4-1 win in which he gave up seven hits and one earned run while striking out seven.

What was different in Gonzalez's second start against the Phillies?

"I just think he established low strike today," Williams told reporters, "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."

Going into his third start of the year against the Phillies and his second start of the season in Philadelphia, Gonzalez was (10-7) on the year with a 3.88 ERA, a 3.15 FIP, 60 walks (3.53 BB/9) and 141 Ks (8.29 K/9) in 153 innings, over which he'd held opposing hitters to a .269/.341/.383 line.

Gonzalez's start in the series finale in the City of Brotherly Love began with a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 first in which he recorded two Ks.

Given a 1-0 lead to work with, Gonzalez walked Darin Ruf with one down in the Phillies' second, but Darnell Sweeney grounded into an inning-ending DP in the next AB bringing an end to a 12-pitch second. 24 total.

Cameron Rupp singled to center with one down in the bottom of the third, but he was stranded two outs later as Gonzalez completed a scoreless, 16-pitch frame. 40 total after three.

Andres Blanco reached on an infield single in the first at bat of the Philly fourth, and scored two outs later when Darin Ruf hit a 93 mph 1-0 fastball out to left for a two-run blast that tied it up at 2-2. 17-pitch frame. 57 total after four.

With the Nationals up 4-2 after four and a half, Gonzalez gave up a one-out single to center by Cameron Rupp in the bottom of the fifth. Erik Kratz followed with a pinch hit single in the next at bat, but Freddy Galvis grounded into a force for out no.2. Andres Blanco K'd swinging to end a 20-pitch frame. 77 total. 9 Ks.

After the Nationals took a 6-2 lead in the top of the sixth, Gonzalez worked around a two-out walk in a scoreless, 20-pitch bottom of the inning in which he recorded his 10th K. 97 pitches total.

The first batter of the Phillies' seventh, Chase d'Arnaud was the 11th strikeout victim of the night for Gonzalez. One out later, Brian Bogusevich was no.12. 13-pitch frame, 110 total.

• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 12 Ks, 1 HR, 110 P, 78 S, 5/2 GO/FO.

4. Who is Alec Asher?: Acquired from Texas in the Cole Hamels deal at this past July's non-waiver trade deadline, 23-year-old, 2012 Rangers' 4th Round pick Alec Asher went (2-0) with a 2.08 ERA, 4.08 FIP, three walks (1.04 BB/9) and 12 Ks (4.15 K/9) in four starts and 26 innings pitched at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the Phillies' system before Philadelphia called him up to make his MLB debut.

In three major league outings, the right-hander has given up 23 hits, five home runs, six walks (3.77 BB/9) and 17 runs (10.67 ERA), with a 7.96 FIP, seven Ks (4.40 K/9) and a .349/.408/.677 line against in 14 ⅓ IP.

Last time out, in his second start at home in Citizens Bank Park, Asher gave up seven hits and six runs, all earned in five innings of work in what ended up a 7-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Phillies' skipper Pete Mackanin talked after that outing about the growing pains Philadelphia's rookie starters, Asher included, were going through in their first taste of major league action.

"Everybody is real happy when they get here and they come with confidence because they had success in the minor leagues," Mackanin told reporters, including CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury.

"Then after a few poor outings, they learn quick that this is a better league than I was in and I can’t make mistakes. They’ve got to build confidence. That’s big, especially with young pitchers."

Asher's fourth major league outing tonight was his first against an NL East foe. His third start at home in the City of Brotherly Love began with a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 first.

Jayson Werth walked to start the Nationals' second and took second base on a hot-shot to first off Clint Robinson's bat that got by Phillies' first baseman Darin Ruf. Ruf dropped a throw to first on an Ian Desmond dribbler to short, leaving the bases loaded with no one out and Jose Lobaton's sac fly to right brought Werth in, 1-0.

Ian Desmond got thrown out trying to steal second for out no.2, and Michael Taylor K'd swinging to end a 23-pitch frame. 35 total for Asher after two.

An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 third left Asher at 46 pitches. Jayson Werth was first-pitch swinging in his one-out at bat in the fourth and he hit a solo home run to left to make it 2-0 Nationals. 15-pitch frame, 61 total.

With the game tied up at 2-2, Jose Lobaton and Michael Taylor hit back-to-back singles to left to start the fifth.

Gio Gonzalez bunted both runners over/gave up an out, and Anthony Rendon brought Lobaton in with an RBI single to center that made it 3-2 Nats. Yunel Escobar followed with an RBI double, 4-2. Bryce Harper singled to center in the next at bat, but Escobar was thrown out at home, sort of... [ed. note - "He was safe."] 12-pitch frame. 73 total.

Alec Asher's Line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 73 P, 48 S, 5/1 GO/FO.

3. Random Game Notes: Washington's back-to-back wins in the first two of three in Philadelphia left them 33-41 on the road this season and 5-3 in Citizens Bank Park.

• Bryce Harper started the series finale in Citizens Bank ranked first in the NL in AVG (.338), OBP (.467), SLG (.667), runs scored (108), home runs (tied, 39) and Wins Above Replacement (9.1 fWAR).

• For today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Harper has put up a .419/.552/1.070 line with four doubles, eight home runs, 14 walks and 12 Ks in 14 games and 58 PAs since September 1st.

• Harper is one of three players in MLB history with 10 or more multi-home run games at 22 years old or younger, joining Eddie Matthews (13), Bob Horner (10) and Mel Ott (10) on that list.

Yunel Escobar's multi-hit game on Monday night was his 45th of the season, leaving the third baseman behind only Bryce Harper (46) for the most multi-hit games by a National this season.

• Heading into tonight's series finale in Philadelphia, Washington held a 9-4 lead in the season series with their NL East rivals.

2. Turning Point(s): A walk, sharp grounder off Darin Ruf's glove and dropped throw from short by the Phillies' first baseman loaded the bases with no one out in the Nationals' second. Jose Lobaton stepped in next and hit a sac fly to right field to bring Jayson Werth in and make it 1-0, but Ian Desmond was caught stealing and Michael Taylor K'd swinging, so Washington settled for one run out of bases-loaded, 0 out opportunity.

• Jayson Werth hit his third home run of the series in Citizens Bank Park with one down in the Nationals' fourth, making it 2-0 Nationals with his 10th HR of the season.

• Andres Blanco reached on an infield single in the first at bat of the Phillies' fourth. Two outs later he was standing on first when Darin Ruf crushed a 93 mph 1-0 fastball from Gio Gonzalez, sending a two-run home run out to left to tie things up at 2-2.

• A half-inning after the Phillies rallied to tie it, the Nationals struck for two runs in the fifth with Anthony Rendon and Yunel Escobar driving in runs to make it a 4-2 game.

1. The Wrap-Up: Hector Neris took over for the Phillies in the sixth and gave up Jayson Werth's second home run of the game on a 93 mph 2-1 fastball that ended up twenty rows back in the left-center seats. Clint Robinson doubled to left-center in the at bat that followed and scored on a double to center by Ian Desmond. 6-2 Nationals after five and a half.

Justin de Fratus hit Anthony Rendon in the first at bat of the seventh, and one out later, Bryce Harper hit his 40th HR of the season out to right-center on an 0-1 fastball outside. Two-run blast, 8-2 Nats.

Nefi Ogando was on the mound in the eighth when the Nationals added three runs on an RBI single by Anthony Rendon and a single by Yunel Escobar on which Jeff Francoeur committed an error. 11-2.

Felipe Rivero retired the Phillies in order in a 12-pitch eighth. Jose Lobaton drove in run no.12 in the Nationals' ninth.

Rafael Martin retired the Phillies in order in the ninth. Ballgame.

12-2 final.

Nationals now 75-70