Gio Gonzalez deserved better. Coming into Sunday afternoon’s series finale with the San Francisco Giants, the 30-year-old left-hander had a three-start unbeaten streak, his longest without a loss since he went four without one in early-to-mid-May.
Two runs scored while Gonzalez was on the mound against the Giants in San Francisco’s AT&T Park, in what ended up a 3-1 loss, but if not for errors, he would have escaped the jams he was in.
Gonzalez gave up a leadoff triple to right by Conor Gillaspie in the third and a one-out walk to Eduardo Nunez put runners on the corners.
He got a potential double play grounder to second out of Angel Pagan, only to have Trea Turner blow a backhand toss to Danny Espinosa that pulled the shortstop off the bag and allowed a run to score without a run being recorded, 1-0.
Pinch-hitting pitcher Madison Bumgarner doubled to start the fifth and his pinch runner, Jeff Samardzija, scored from second two outs later when Anthony Rendon bounced a throw to first that Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t pick, 2-0.
“Usually we don’t do that,” Baker said of the errors. “Gio should have fared a lot better than that because his last two starts have been outstanding.
“He’s throwing strikes, No. 1,” Baker told a reporter who asked what’s been working for Gonzalez over the last two starts.
“He’s not walking people. He’s getting out of some jams when he gets in them.”
Gonzalez almost escaped the jams he was in today.
“We had a double play ball that would have gotten him out of the inning and a ground ball that would have gotten him out of that other inning, and we didn’t give him a lot of offensive support. We only got three hits.”
Giants’ right-hander Matt Cain held the Nationals hitless through five innings on the mound, and, as Baker noted, Nats’ hitters connected for just three hits total on the day, going 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position, which is something the Nationals’ skipper said has been an issue all season.
As a team, the Nationals had a .249/.344/.397 line with runners in scoring position on the year heading into today’s game, good for 8th/7th/9th across the line in the NL.
“If you’ve been following us most of the year it’s been that most of the year,” Baker said of the Nats’ issues with runners in scoring position.
They went 9 for 41 (.220 AVG) w/ RISP in earning a split of the four-game set in San Francisco.
The Giants, who were in the midst of 18 for 122 (.148 AVG) stretch overall in the last 13 games, went 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position and 11 left on base on Sunday, leaving them 4 for 43 (.093 AVG) overall in the series.
“Maybe they buckled down and maybe we should attack early in the count,” Baker said.
“Sometimes you swing at bad pitches. There’s a knack in driving in runs, and you see some of the same guys lead their respective leagues every year in RBIs and we’ve got guys like Matt Kemp or Buster Posey that were over here driving in almost 100 every year, then you’ve got Miguel Cabrera and some guys in the American League that drive in 100 runs almost every year. There’s an art to it.
“Everybody talks about on-base percentage, but you need some guys to drive in those guys with on-base percentage cause I see teams they get a lot of on-base percentage, but the name of the game is scoring runs, which you don’t have an opportunity to score runs unless you get guys on base.
“So, which one comes first or more important, the chicken or the egg? I’ll take the run- producers.”