Gio Gonzalez gave up a total of eight home runs in 175 ⅔ innings last season (0.41 HR/9) in his fourth season in the Washington Nationals' rotation. So far this Spring, the 30-year-old lefty has allowed two in just 8 ⅔ IP, including one by Marwin Gonzalez last week, when he faced the same Houston Astros he was facing today.
He almost allowed his third home run of the Spring in that start, when infielder Luis Valbuena bounced a fly ball off the top of the right field wall that fell back onto the field of play.
Gonzalez told reporters, including MASNSports.com's Mark Zuckerman, that in each of those at bats he made the "boneheaded" decision, his words, to shake off catcher Pedro Severino:
"That's a glitch in the system, where I thought: 'Alright, let me try to go up and away,'" Gonzalez said of the home run pitch [to Gonzalez]. "It stayed right in the middle, up. But Sevie had the right mindset with another pitch. Same thing with [Valbuena]. Again, I shook off to the fastball. And exactly what he was looking for was fastball in. ... If I stuck with his game plan, it would've been a different scenario."
Gonzalez walked four batters in that 68-pitch outing, giving up four free passes for the second straight start. He threw just 35 of his 68 pitches for strikes, though he said he felt better about the outing than the results showed.
"I felt like I was more in the strike zone where I wanted to be," Gonzalez explained.
"The results don't show that, but I felt like I was being more aggressive. I was pitching on counts I wanted to pitch."
Gonzalez went to a full count with three of the first four Houston batters he faced in the first this afternoon, according to the Astros radio team calling the game, giving up a two-out single to center by Carlos Gomez and walk to Tyler White in front of Valbuena, whose RBI single to left brought Gomez around for a 1-0 Astros' lead after one.
Back-to-back singles started the top of the second inning and a wild pitch allowed both Jason Castro and Danny Worth to move into scoring position, but Gonzalez got two ground balls to third from the next two batters without a run coming in, and, after a base-loading walk to Marwin Gonzalez, got Carlos Gomez swinging with a two-strike curve. Still 1-0.
He did, however, throw 56 pitches total in the first two innings, according to reports from Viera.
Gonzalez issued his third walk of the game and the second to Tyler White in the first at bat of the Astros' third, but the DH was caught trying to advance to second on a ball in the dirt, when he was thrown out by Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos.
Two quick outs followed in a relatively efficient frame for the Nationals' left-hander.
Danny Worth doubled to center off Gonzalez with one down in the top of the fourth, but was stranded there. Gonzalez came back out for the fifth, but was lifted after issuing a one-out walk, his fourth of the game.
Gio Gonzalez's Line: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 87 P, 50 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
• It's fun for #narrative purposes to point to everything that happens for Wilson Ramos this year as a result of LASIK surgery he had a few weeks back, but whatever the cause of his hot start, the 28-year-old catcher is crushing opposing pitching early in Grapefruit League action. His solo home run in the third, a two-out line drive to left-center off Astros' righty Scott Feldman, was his second home run of the Spring and his sixth hit in 17 at bats (.353 AVG) so far.
• Michael Taylor (1 for 2 today and 16 for 33 this Spring) singled with two down in the Nationals' half of the third and Anthony Rendon followed with a single of his own, putting two on in front of Bryce Harper, who battled after falling behind 0-2 and sent one back to the mound that Scott Feldman couldn't handle.
Harper's infield singled loaded the bases in front of Ryan Zimmerman, who drove two runs in with a double to left, 3-1 Nats.
• Joe Ross, who left yesterday's game after taking a low liner off his right heel, told reporters today that he didn't feel any pain in the heel 24 hours later:
Joe Ross says he's good to make next start as scheduled. Heel is "barely sore at all."— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 21, 2016
Joe Ross said his heel feels better. Doesn't have any limp. Expects to make next turn in rotation.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) March 21, 2016
• Felipe Rivero stranded the runner he inherited from Gio Gonzalez in the fifth, and completed a scoreless frame.
• Trevor Gott retired the Astros in order in the sixth.
• Rafael Martin gave up a two-run "home run" in the seventh that bounced off/apparently cleared the yellow line atop of the wall in center field.
Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler didn't seem to think was a home run, and we're going by their description since the game wasn't shown on tv today. It was ruled a two-run blast that tied things up at 3-3.
• Trea Turner singled and stole his sixth base in six attempts in the Nationals' half of the seventh. He took third on a one-out single by Brendan Ryan and scored on a sac fly by Reed Johnson to make it 4-3.
• Martin came back out for another inning of work and worked around a two-out single for a scoreless frame.
• Cutter Dykstra homered in his first Grapefruit League at bat of the Spring in the eighth. 5-3 Nationals.
• Nick Masset took the mound in the ninth and retired the Astros in order to end it.