Gio Gonzalez was just (1-4) in his last six starts heading into tonight’s outing, though he put up a 2.48 ERA and a .176/.258/.303 line against in 40 innings pitched over that stretch, providing further evidence that pitchers’ wins are not a good way to measure pitchers’ success.
Gonzalez gave up two earned runs in seven innings against Milwaukee in his last start before tonight’s in Miami, both of them in the first, on a home run and swinging strike three/wild pitch with a runner on third. He held the Brewers scoreless over his next six innings on the mound, however, in what ended up an 8-5 win for Washington.
“I think it was just sticking to the game plan we had with Matt [Wieters] and trusting your stuff,” Gonzalez told reporters after the win in D.C.
“[The Brewers] came out with a monster home run, but he kept the score right there,” Dusty Baker said. “Two runs usually isn’t going to beat this club. He did a heck of a job just to keep it at two runs.”
“That’s exactly what I was trying to do,” Gonzalez said, “was just try to keep us as close as possible.”
The Nationals blew that game open with a seven-run eighth, rallying from a 2-1 deficit and getting Gonzalez off the hook, to help him avoid a fifth loss in seven starts.
Gonzalez held the Marlins hitless through four tonight in Miami’s Marlins Park, working around two walks, and striking out two batters, with a seven-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth leaving him at just 54 pitches total, and he was up to 67 after he set the Fish down in order in the fifth, at which point he appeared to be on to something.
Two strikeouts in an eight-pitch 1-2-3 sixth left Gonzalez at 75 pitches total after six scoreless and hitless.
Gonzalez’s one-out walk to Christian Yelich in the bottom of the seventh snapped a streak of 14-straight Marlins set down going back to a two-out walk to Tyler Moore in the second, but he got a force at second base on a Marcell Ozuna grounder to the mound in the next at bat, and got a force at second on a J.T. Realmuto grounder to third to end his seventh scoreless and hitless frame.
A two-out HBP slowed Gonzalez’s roll in the eighth, but he got a fly to center field from Ichiro Suzuki to end a 16-pitch frame that left him at 103 pitches.
Gonzalez came back out for the ninth, but gave up the first hit of the game on a 1-1 curve to Dee Gordon that the speedy Marlin lined to center for a single.
That was it for Gonzalez, and the Hialeah, FL-born lefty received a standing ovation from the crowd in Miami as he left the mound.
Sean Doolittle came on to complete the 1-0 shutout win over the Fish.
Gio Gonzalez’s Line: 8.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HBP, 106 P, 67 S, 7/4 GO/FO.
Gonzalez threw 63% of his 106 pitches for strikes on the night, generated 17 swings and six swinging strikes with his curve, and held the Marlins in check until Gordon’s single ended his outing.
“He was really focused and very calm and the best I’ve seen him,” Baker said after the 1-0 win, “and the longest I’ve seen him. We were all hoping for it, nobody was saying anything. He knew it, the fans knew it, everybody knew it, and he gave us all he had.”
“He threw a heck of a ballgame,” Baker continued
“He had a great curveball, outstanding fastball, and boy, that one run usually doesn’t stand up against these guys, cause they can hit, and so that was a very special night.”
In most no-hitters, there are pivotal plays, and there were a few tonight, even though Gonzalez dominated for most of his outing. One particularly close play came on a line drive to right that Bryce Harper caught falling back as he appeared to lose sight of the ball.
“There was one [Wilmer] Difo made an outstanding play,” Baker said. “You could tell that Bryce lost that ball in the lights. You certainly wouldn’t have wanted it to end that way, but that was a great night for him and a good night for us.”
“I have to compliment [Matt] Wieters,” Gonzalez told MASN’s Dan Kolko after the game.
“He [did] a great job back there, he was calling great pitches, framing up great balls. And then you had the defense was spectacular, [Brian Goodwin] made a hell of a play, Difo line drive play, Bryce had one in the lights, everyone — even Daniel [Murphy] was back there straight working, so it was definitely a lot of work as far as that, but it was a special night.”
It was special, Gonzalez said, because it was all happening on what would have been his friend Jose Fernandez’s 25th birthday.
Gonzalez met with the late Marlins’ starter’s family before the game, and struggled to talk about what it meant to him after the game, getting choked up when Kolko talked about the emotions the lefty was dealing with on the mound.
“I didn’t know that one,” Baker said when informed it would have been Fernandez’s 25th birthday. “Boy, that’s tough there, cause I was just thinking about how much different of a club they would be if Jose were here. So, yeah, boy, oh what a night.”