Gio Gonzalez was (2-0) in three September starts before last night's, with a 1.47 ERA, nine walks (4.42 BB/9) and 26 Ks (12.76 K/9) in 18 ⅓ innings pitched, over which he'd held opposing hitters to a combined .172/.274/.291 line.
Baltimore Orioles' right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez was (2-0) in three September starts as well, with a 4.08 ERA, nine walks (4.59 BB/9), 16 Ks (8.15 K/9) and a .222/.329/.302 line against in 17 ⅔ IP.
Gonzalez lasted just 4 ⅔ innings on Tuesday night, over which he gave up six hits, two walks and four earned runs, while striking out six in Washington's 4-1 loss.
Jimenez walked five, struck out five and gave up three hits and one unearned run in six innings in Nationals Park.
Gonzalez issued back-to-back, one-out walks in the second, and both runners scored when Jimenez and Orioles' left fielder Nolan Reimold hit back-to-back, two-out RBI singles to give the O's a 2-0 lead.
After the Nationals cut the Orioles' lead in half when Clint Robinson reached on an error and scored on an error in the bottom of the fifth, a one-out single by Manny Machado and RBI doubles by Chris Davis and Steve Pearce in back-to-back-to-back at bats put the Orioles ahead, 4-1. Gonzalez struck Jonathan Schoop out for the second out of the frame before he left the game.
"We got to the point where they had four runs and didn't want to give up another one," Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters in discussing the decision to lift Gonzalez.
"The inning he gave up the two, two walks started it," Williams said, "and then, of course, the pitcher got a hit, the next guy got a hit. That's two. And then just -- the innings that he had trouble the ball was just up in the strike zone.
"The ball to Pearce was up, and certainly not where he wanted it."
"I didn't feel like I was all over the place," Gonzalez told reporters, including MASN's Byron Kerr, after throwing 51 of 82 pitches for strikes and walking just the two batters in the second.
"I felt like it was just little pitch selection here and there. Again, definitely my fault."
As for Jimenez? What made the veteran right-hander so difficult for Nationals' hitters? Williams said it was his split-finger fastball.
"He doesn't throw as hard as he once did, but the split finger was really good tonight."
"He threw well," Bryce Harper said, after going 0 for 1 with three walks in the Nats' loss.
"Had good command of all of his pitches. Kept us off-balance. His sinker was pretty good, his curveball was pretty good. Split-finger, of course, is tough. He just pitched well and threw to his strengths and you saw what happened."
Jimenez also has a bit of a funky delivery, but Williams said it was nothing new.
"It's a little different," he said, "but these guys have seen him before. It's not that much different than before, but his split was really effective tonight."
The Nationals did, however, have nine men reach base, but they went 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
"Had chances," Williams said. "Make pitches when you need to. I don't know what we had... three hits or something?
"Didn't have many. Had some fly balls. We had some chances, didn't come through tonight. We've been coming through a lot lately, but not tonight."
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak, and unfortunately for the Nationals, who still trail the New York Mets by 6.5 games in the NL East, it came on a night when the division leaders dropped a 6-2 decision to the Atlanta Braves.