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Gio Gonzalez earns fifth straight win in Nationals’ 9-4 victory over the Mets...

“He’s working all four quadrants of the strike zone and he’s peeling the plate...” - Dusty Baker on what’s been working for Gio Gonzalez

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Gio Gonzalez started this afternoon’s matchup against the New York Mets with a four-start winning streak going, over which he’d put up a 0.33 ERA and a .156/.229/.156 line against in 27 23 innings pitched.

Gonzalez also had a three-start winning streak against Washington’s NL East rivals from New York, over which the Nationals’ left-hander had put up a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings.

After Gonzalez’s last start at home in the nation’s capital before Saturday afternoon, Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker talked about the relationship between the left-hander and his catcher, Matt Wieters, in the first season together for the two of them, and what has been working for Gonzalez in what’s been an impressive season so far in 2017.

“He can throw the fastball in, throw the fastball out, throw the changeup, throw a sinker,” Baker said.

“He has some weapons that he really feels comfortable throwing to [Matt] Wieters.

“Him and Wieters are on the same page, and he doesn’t have to do a whole bunch of thinking, just execute and locate because Wieters is doing a lot of the game planning for him, him and [pitching coach] Mike Maddux, and so it’s about execution.”

Before Saturday’s outing, Baker was asked about the fact that Gonzalez has also been using his changeup more often this season, (up from 12.1% of the time overall in his career to 18.3% in 2017), while holding opposing hitters to a .210 AVG with the pitch so far this season.

How does the increased changeup usage affect opposing hitters approach against the left-hander and help Gonzalez?

“With his sinker — we call it peeling the plate,” Baker explained.

“The sinker goes one way, then his curveball can go right over the middle of the plate, and — depending on the speed — and then his fastball inside, so that opens up the plate and ‘peels’ the plate, and you don’t know if he’s going outside or if he’s going to come inside or if he’s going to go with the curveball, and then add the changeup on there then we’ve got all the weapons, and it depends — and this is where Wieters comes in, to know how to use your weapons.

“He’s always had the weapons,” Baker continued, “... but before he was bouncing his curveball a lot and so hitters start eliminating a pitch, and say, ‘Okay, every time he throws a breaking ball it’s in the dirt,’ or, “Every time he throws a fastball it’s a ball up,’ so as a hitter that’s when you’re in trouble when you can’t eliminate a pitch.”

In his third start of the season against the Mets, Gonzalez gave up two runs on six hits in 6 23 innings, earning his fifth straight win in what ended up a 9-4 victory.

Gonzalez got nine ground ball outs and just two strikeouts total, inducing a lot of weak contact from the 26 batters he faced before he was done for the day.

“He’s getting his breaking ball over which they have to be aware of,” Baker said when asked about Gonzalez’s success, “and then he throws his sinker or a changeup or a fastball in, he has everything going for him right now, he’s working all four quadrants of the strike zone and he’s peeling the plate, you know, inside fastball, breaking ball, fastball, changeup, sinker, he’s got it going on right now and we got him some runs.”

“He is just a quality pitcher,” Terry Collins told reporters after Gonzalez’s fourth straight win over his Mets.

“And they’ve got the offense, they get their runs for him. I have seen Gio an awful lot. He knows what he is doing. He can pitch inside to righties. He keeps you in the game.”