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Washington Nationals’ lefty Gio Gonzalez reaches 180 innings, contract for 2018 now guaranteed at $12M...

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Gio Gonzalez’s contract for 2018 was guaranteed when he hit 180 IP tonight vs Atlanta... but he struggled in the 8-0 loss to the Braves.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Gio Gonzalez needed 101 pitches to get through five innings on the mound last time out before tonight, in a less-than-efficient start against the Miami Marlins, but the 31-year-old left-hander earned the win, leaving him (14-6) in 2017, with wins in seven of eight outings, over which he’d put up a 1.59 ERA, 14 walks, 36 Ks and a .200/.275/.250 line against in 45 13 IP.

“He threw a lot of pitches in a short period of time, but he got the victory,” Dusty Baker told reporters after that game against the Marlins.

“There have been other games when he threw better and then got a loss or a no- decision, so that’s one that we owed him from the past.”

Gonzalez’s five innings in Miami left him with 179 23 innings pitched on the season, one out shy of 180 innings, which will guarantee his $12M option for 2018 and keep him in the nation’s capital for at least one more season.

Gonzalez got a strikeout out of Ender Inciarte for the first out of the game against the Atlanta Braves tonight, to reach the 180-inning mark, but gave up a run in a 30-pitch first inning, and he was up to 49 pitches after he worked around a one-out double in a 19-pitch second.

Freddie Freeman stepped in with runners on the corners and no one out in the third, got up 3-0, swung through a 3-0 changeup, then crushed a 3-1 fastball, sending a no-doubter of a three-run home run to center for the first homer by a left-handed hitter off Gonzalez in 2017... and a 4-0 lead.

One and two-out doubles in a 15-pitch fourth left Gonzalez down 5-0, at 82 pitches, and a quick, eight-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left him at 90 overall.

That was it for his outing, and the Braves went on to take the series opener, 8-0.

Gio Gonzalez’s Line: (L, 14-7), 5.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 90 P, 60 S, 5/2 GO/FO.

“Gio wasn’t as sharp tonight,” Baker said after the loss.

“Freddie, boy, he continues to hit us hard. Gio was a little under the weather today to start the game, but you’re going to have those days some times.”

Gonzalez did manage to strike out eight batters, six of them in the first two innings, but things went south from there.

“He had the strikeout stuff,” Baker said, “but [Freeman] and [Ozzie] Albies hit him pretty hard, and we don’t know much about him, and they got a good lineup over there, and so it doesn’t matter where they are in the standings, they still got a good lineup.”

Though they looked flat coming off clinching the NL East on Sunday, Gonzalez didn’t want to blame the loss on a letdown coming off the celebration.

“You can’t take that away from the Braves,” he said.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“They swing the bat, whether you’re healthy — they don’t care, they didn’t come in here to celebrate with us, they came in here to do their job. As far as that, they were swinging the bat, they were patient when they needed to be and they were swinging when they needed to be, so you’ve got to give credit to their lineup, they did a good job.”

Asked what was different between the early innings, and the later innings when the Braves got to him, Gonzalez said he wasn’t really sure.

“It was weird to me, you get the strikeouts then all of a sudden the hits came in, it was one of those games you just take it for what it was, sweep it under the rug, get ready for tomorrow.

“Just one of those games you can’t really understand what happened, just pick up what you can and go from there.”

That at bat with Freeman, which ended with the home run that turned a 1-0 game into a 4-0 game was, obviously a big one.

“It was 3-0, 3-0 changeup, then 3-1 fastball, he just got the fastball, that was on me,” Gonzalez said.

“If I could have put it in a different location, maybe a different result, but it was just a fastball up, got what he wanted, and he made the damage, I gave him the pitch he wanted.”

“Gio missed a couple spots,” Matt Wieters added, “at the same time we didn’t help him out defensively as much as we could have.”

Gonzalez didn’t have much to say about the fact that his contract for 2018 vested, and the fact that he now knew he’d back back in D.C. next season. “We’re not there yet,” he said, “so we’ve got to focus on now.”