Gio Gonzalez gave up a run in the second on Wednesday afternoon, a half-inning after his catcher, Wilson Ramos, put the Washington Nationals up 1-0 early in the second of two with the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians.
A two-out, two-run, home run by Francisco Lindor in the third got the Indians within one a half-inning after Jayson Werth made it 4-1 with a three-run blast in the bottom of the second.
Back-to-back doubles by Mike Napoli and Jose Ramirez followed as Cleveland rallied to tie it up at 4-4 and Gonzalez struggled to get out No. 3 of the third. He was up to 63 pitches after three after having thrown just 13 in the first.
Gonzalez, 30, started strong in April (1.42 ERA, 2.50 FIP, .188/.250/.239 line against in 25 ⅓ IP), but struggled in May (5.23 ERA, 4.91 FIP, .282/.347/.466 in 32 ⅔) and in June (6.95 ERA, 3.46 FIP, .289/.386/.439 in 33 ⅔), before bouncing back in July, with a 2.70 ERA, 4.53 FIP and a .225/.306/.391 line against in 30 IP.
He got off to a good start in August with seven innings on the mound in a win over the San Francisco Giants last weekend in which he allowed just two hits and one run.
Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker talked after that win about what went wrong for Gonzalez when he was struggling earlier this season.
“Probably some untimely walks,” Baker said. “Also we didn’t get him a whole bunch of run support and also [he’d] get two quick strikes on somebody and end up 3-2 or walking him and then gave up a number — he was almost out of trouble a lot of times — a number of two-out base hits, which is deflating.”
Gonzalez finished his seven innings against the Giants on a relatively efficient 104 pitches.
His goal he said, is to, “... just every night try to be like that,” Gonzalez told reporters.
“With this rotation, trying to keep up with the rest of the guys, just going out there throwing up big numbers.
“Tanner [Roark], [Stephen Strasburg], Max [Scherzer], even Joe [Ross] when he’s out there and healthy, it’s seven or eight innings every time, so it’s good to see that I’m trying to keep up with the rest of the guys.”
Gonzalez was up to 92 pitches after five on Wednesday afternoon, and after RBI doubles by Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon put the Nationals up, 7-4, he went out and walked the first batter he faced in the Indians’ sixth, then gave up a single on his 103rd pitch before he was lifted with runners on first and second and the potential tying run at the plate.
Matt Belisle took over on the mound and got a double play grounder and a groundout to end the top of the sixth without a run coming in.
“That was a big job that Matt Belisle,” Baker said.
“He came in with nobody out and first and second and had a very tough [Lonnie] Chisenall hit into a double play and got out of the inning unscathed.”
Blake Treinen, Oliver Perez and Shawn Kelley handled the seventh, Kelley came back out for the eighth and Mark Melancon locked it down in the ninth.
Gio Gonzalez’s Line (W, 8-9), 5.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 103 P, 66 S, 6/1 GO/FO.
“He was throwing the ball well,” Baker said when asked about Gonzalez’s outing.
“There were a couple pitches that were questioned a little bit, because he had a guy late and threw him a breaking ball, had another guy early and then threw Lindor a fastball.
“It’s all part of maturing as a pitcher and reading the swings from the opposition. He had real good stuff. And then the fact that he got out of the first inning, that’s usually his nemesis, that showed me the kind of stuff that he had today and he pitched well enough to get the victory, and so now he’s one game under .500 and his next outing we try to get him to .500 because that’s a long way from where he came from.”
• We talked about Gio’s start vs CLE; Brian Goodwin’s first hit and more on Nats Nightly: