Gio Gonzalez gave up three home runs and four runs total in the bottom of the first last night in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Washington Nationals’ lost the first of four with the Baltimore Orioles this week, and when they had a chance to rally late, baserunning mistakes cost the Nats an opportunity to potentially tie things up.
It wasn’t all bad news, however.
Dusty Baker’s Nationals battled back, with Gio Gonzalez limiting the damage after the first, two struggling relievers turning in good outings and Bryce Harper returning and hitting an opposite field home run after sitting out of the three-game set in Citizens Bank Park this past weekend.
Joey Rickard, Mark Trumbo, and Trey Mancini all took Gonzalez deep to left/left-center in the O’s first, but as Baker said after the loss, his left-hander settled in, allowing two more runs to score over his six innings on the mound in OPACY.
“Early he wasn’t hitting his spots,” Baker told reporters after the game.
“He was supposed to throw one pitch away and the ball got in,” the Nats’ skipper explained.
“Another pitch was supposed to be in and it got away, and after that first inning he settled down after the number of home runs that they hit in that inning.
“Then he settled down after that and was throwing the ball well.”
Gonzalez ended up finishing six innings of work on the mound, hanging around longer than expected considering how things went in the first.
When the Nationals did go to the bullpen, Baker turned to Blake Treinen, who tossed a scoreless, 16-pitch seventh, retiring the Orioles in order, and Joe Blanton, who’s had a rough start to match Treinen’s this season, but worked around three singles in a quick scoreless eighth.
Baker was asked what he’s looking for from Treinen as the sinker-balling right-hander tries to get his season on track.
“Just strikes and aggressive strikes,” Baker said. “He threw the ball well tonight.
“Blanton threw the ball better and, like I said, we had action on coming back and snatching that game the way the Phillies did on us yesterday.”
The Nats ultimately fell short in their attempt to fight their way back from a 6-0 hole, but they did fight, with Michael A. Taylor and Harper driving in runs in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively.
Harper also took sidewinding right-hander Darren O’Day deep in the eighth, lining a 2-2 fastball up in the zone the other way for a solo shot that made it 6-3.
It was Harper’s first truly opposite field home run this season (he’s hit two of his ten just to the left of center), and a good sign that he’s healthy after the groin issues that kept him out of the lineup in the three-game set in CBP this past weekend.
“He looked good,” Baker said after Harper went 2 for 3 with a walk, two RBIs and the home run.
“He looked real good, especially when he hit that ball to left field like a right-handed hitter.
“That shows me that his hip rotation and everything was good, and I’m glad I held him out another day, so, maybe we’ll start rolling again from here.”
Baker’s Nationals will try to avoid a third straight loss in the second game of this week’s four-game, two-city series with the Orioles.