Hialeah, FL-born lefty Gio Gonzalez took the mound tonight in Miami’s Marlins Park with a seven-start unbeaten streak going back to May 8th, over which he was (3-0) with a 3.14 ERA, 16 walks (3.35 BB/9), 43 Ks (9.00 K/9) and a .229/.301/.363 line against in 43 innings pitched.
Gonzalez, 31, was coming off a seven-inning start on the road in Citi Field in which he gave up five hits and two earned runs, improving to (10-1) in 15 career starts in New York.
In Miami, the lefty was (1-2) in four starts before tonight with a 4.24 ERA, four walks (1.54 BB/9), 26 Ks (10.03 K/9) and a .278/.305/.389 line against in 23 1⁄3 IP, though he’d gone 13 innings against the Fish since he last allowed an earned run to the Nationals’ NL East rivals, back on September 11, 2015.
Gonzalez’s scoreless innings streak vs the Fish ended at 16 IP when the Marlins scored a run in the fourth on an RBI double by J.T. Realmuto, cutting the Nationals’ lead in half, at that point, 2-1.
He took the mound in the fifth with a 6-1 lead, however, after a four-run fifth knocked Marlins’ starter Edinson Volquez out of the game, but gave Gonzalez up a two-out single by Christian Yelich and a two-out, two-run home run by Marcell Ozuna, who hit a 439-foot blast to left field to make it a 6-3 game after five.
Gonzalez needed just 19 pitches total (11 in the 6th, eight in the 7th) to get through seven with the 6-3 lead in tact, and he was up to 101 pitches total when he was done for the night.
Gio Gonzalez’s Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 101 P, 71 S, 6/1 GO/FO.
Dusty Baker told reporters after what ended up a 12-3 win that he got exactly what the Nationals needed from Gonzalez a night after Tanner Roark struggled and went just three innings in the series opener.
“Yeah, exactly what we needed,” Baker said. “Seven strong innings. He had a little hiccup there with the two-run homer, but our offense kept scoring.
“I was glad to see [Ryan Zimmerman] swinging the bat well. [Brian Goodwin] got a big RBI hit early in the game there, and so we got some two-out RBIs. [Daniel Murphy] had a good game. That’s the first time in a while where — we try to win seven-eight-nine and we did.”
The Marlins put runners on against Gonzalez, but went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position against the left-hander and left six runners on base on the night.
On the season, after tonight, opposing hitters are 8 for 75 (.107 AVG) with runners in scoring position against Gonzalez.
Baker was asked about the improvements he’s seen Gonzalez make with runners in scoring position this season, as a 31-year-old, in his 10th major league campaign, when he’s struggled with runners on before (.333 BAA in 2016; .272 in 2015).
“A lot of times that’s when you learn it,” he said. “If you come in here in the big leagues learning how to get out of jams, then you’re going to be a big winner. Especially left-handers seem to learn it later than right-handers, that’s why they usually stick around a lot longer. If he can not get in trouble — which they’re going to do some times, but the key is to have the presence of mind and coolness to get out of it.”
With the win, Gonzalez improved to (7-1) on the year, with a 2.96 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 40 walks (3.82 BB/9), and 87 Ks (8.30 K/9) in 94 1⁄3 innings pitched.
He started the 2017 campaign telling Baker he wanted to make it back to the All-Star Game for his third career appearance in the Midsummer Classic. So, is the Florida-born southpaw going to back in Miami next month?
“We’ve got a couple more games to go,” Baker said, “and you want to tack on more victories there, I don’t know when they come up with the selection, but we’ve got a ways to go and you just got to keep pitching. Gio is throwing the ball great.
“You like to see him minimize his pitches and minimize his walks and he had a few strikeouts in-between, and a key double play, and he threw the ball well.”
But is he worthy of a spot on the National League’s All-Star roster?