Washington Nationals’ starter Gio Gonzalez and catcher Jose Lobaton combined for a strike’em out, throw’em out double play, erasing a leadoff walk to Jean Segura in the first inning of Thursday afternoon’s series finale with the Seattle Mariners.
A slick 5-4-3 DP got Taylor Motter off the basepaths after a leadoff walk by Gonzalez in the top of the third.
Kyle Seager’s one-out double in the fifth, the first hit off Gonzalez on the day, and back-to-back walks to Danny Valencia and Motter loaded the bases, but Gonzalez struck Mike Zunino and Mariners’ starter Ariel Miranda out to end a fifth scoreless frame, and the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the inning.
Leadoff and one-out singles in front of slugger Nelson Cruz ended Gonzalez’s outing in the sixth, however, with Dusty Baker going to the pen for Jacob Turner, who threw a wild pitch that put both runners in scoring position and then surrendered a three-run home run by Cruz, on a hanging 2-1 slider.
“I know Gio wanted to stay in the game,” Baker told reporters after what ended up a 4-2 loss, “but I thought the fresh arm — this is the third time around and you know Gio that third or fourth time around, you’re kind of flirting with danger with a dangerous hitter up there. That’s what I saw. It didn’t work. It’s my responsibility, but I was put in that position in order to make that decision.”
Baker explained, in some depth, how he made the decision to lift Gonzalez, and go with Turner, as opposed to Matt Albers.
“I know that Albers, we were considering putting him in against Cruz, but Cruz is like 3 for 10 with two home runs, so okay, I didn’t like that matchup really, and then [Cruz] was 1 for 1 only, against Turner, and I think Cruz was 1 for  at that time [against Gonzalez], it was 1 for , would that 1 for  continue, do you flirt with that, or do you figure that 1 for  could turn into a big bomb with such a dangerous hitter.”
“We decided against that 1 for 15, especially the way they were starting to hit in that inning,” Baker continued, “cause you know things go in cycles, usually they get one hit, two hits, three hits and that’s the ballgame.”
He also noted that Gonzalez’s pitch count was high, and though he’d somehow gotten out of jams earlier in the game, the left-hander was not sharp.
“I saw a couple balls hit hard right after we had scored and he was struggling all day,” Baker said. “I mean, it was kind of like Houdini that got out of trouble a bunch.
“He was 2-0 on everybody, very few first-pitch strikes, 3-2 on a lot of hitters, and his pitch count was extremely high with a dangerous hitter up there in Nelson Cruz.
“This cat has hit 40 home runs almost every year and he’s their top RBI guy. But [Jacob Turner] hung a slider, that was the mistake. I thought it was a fastball from over there, and I asked [Jose Lobaton], Loby said it was a nothing slider that just spun right there in the middle of the plate. If he makes his pitch, then it could be a double play or we get out of the inning.”