With a solid start by Gio Gonzalez and home runs by Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper (2), and Adam Eaton, the Washington Nationals completed a three-game, season-opening sweep of the Cincinnati Reds with a 6-5 win in Great American Ball Park.
GIO vs CIN: Gio Gonzalez took the mound in Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park with a 2-0 lead, courtesy of a two-run homer by Anthony Rendon, and as the Nationals mentioned in their pregame notes, since 2012, the lefty was 69-5 with a 2.93 ERA in 92 starts in which he received two runs or more of support.
Gonzalez, 32, and coming off a solid 2017 campaign which saw finish sixth in the voting for the NL Cy Young after going (15-9) in 32 starts, with a 2.96 ERA, a 3.93 FIP, 79 walks (3.54 BB/9), 188 Ks (8.42 K/9), and a .213/.298/.345 line against over 201 innings pitched, got off to a strong start in the series finale with the Reds this afternoon, working around a pair of singles for three scoreless innings on 48 pitches, striking out five of the first 11 batters he faced.
After working around a two-out double in the Reds’ fourth, and adding a strikeout, for six total from 15 batters, Gonzalez retired the side in order in a 13-pitch fifth, adding K No. 7 with his 69th pitch.
Eugenio Suarez took the first walk of the game from the Nationals’ starter with one out in the home half of the sixth, and scored on a two-out double to right field by Adam Duvall that Bryce Harper tracked to the wall but couldn’t catch, 3-1. [ed. note - “It was catchable.”]
It was 5-1 Nationals when Gonzalez took the mound in the seventh, and he was lifted after giving up a leadoff single on his 91st pitch.
Gio Gonzalez’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 91 P, 59 S, 4/3 GO/FO.
OBP + POW: Adam Eaton improved to 6 for 6 in his last six trips to the plate with a leadoff hit in the first at bat of this afternoon’s series finale, and Anthony Rendon followed with a two-run home run to left on a 97 mph fastball from Reds’ right-hander Sal Romano, 2-0.
Rendon absolutely crushed the heater, which was up in the zone and over the middle of the plate on the seventh pitch of the at bat, which started with Rendon down, 0-2.
Trea Turner's favorite player doing a Trea Turner's favorite player thing. pic.twitter.com/AcSVATw2Q9— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 1, 2018
Anthony Rendon off RHP Sal Romano - 108.3 mph, 24 degrees (407 ft Home Run)— MLBBarrelAlert (@MLBBarrelAlert) April 1, 2018
96.8 mph Four-Seamer#Nationals @ #Reds (T1) pic.twitter.com/tQGofJ84NR
Romano gave up the two runs early, then retired seven straight Nats’ batters before a walk to Ryan Zimmerman and a single by Trea Turner in the first two at bats of the fourth. Both runners were stranded, however, and he retired the side in order in the fifth before giving up a leadoff home run by Bryce Harper, who crushed a 3-1 fastball and sent a solo shot to right to put the Nationals up 3-0, in the sixth. Harper’s 1st of 2018.
That @Bharper3407 swing can only mean one thing. #Crushed pic.twitter.com/OESgSW1g0N— MLB (@MLB) April 1, 2018
Sal Romano’s line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 Ks, 2 HRs, 95 P, 53 S, 12/2 GO/FO.
Double Leadoff: Wilmer Difo, batting ninth, singled with one down in the seventh, with new pitcher Yovani Gallardo on the mound, then stole second, and scored when Adam Eaton hit his second home run of the season out to right on a 2-1 curve up in the zone. 5-1 Nationals.
Your daily Adam Eaton HR video. pic.twitter.com/qtqkc1lidt— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 1, 2018
Before today’s game, the Nationals’ rookie manager, Davey Martinez, talked about hitting his pitcher eighth on occasion, as he did today with Gonzalez eighth, and Difo ninth, explaining that he liked the utility man in that spot.
“I like Difo,” Martinez explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“Difo, to me, is another leadoff guy. So we’re batting him ninth today, maybe jumpstart the bottom of our order and get the top of the order flipped around and get something going.”
Difo did just that in this instance. Everything’s coming up Davey through three games. Eaton improved to 2 for 4 on the day and 8 for 12 on the season to that point.
Bullpen Action: Matt Grace took over for Gio Gonzalez with a runner on and no one out in the Reds’ seventh, and got three outs with three pitches on a lineout to left and a 4-3 DP.
Sammy Solis gave up a leadoff walk to Phil Gosselin, who scored in the next at bat when Billy Hamilton doubled down the line in left field, 5-2.
Solis’s second walk of the inning brought Joey Votto to the plate as the potential tying run, and he hit Votto to load’em up with no one out. That was it for Solis.
Ryan Madson inherited the jam, and got a 5-4-3 DP out of Adam Duvall with a 1-1 fastball that broke the batter’s bat.
A run scored on the play, 5-3, but Madson managed to limit the damage, and Harper added to the lead with his second home run of the day, a no-doubter of a solo shot to center field on a 96 mph 2-2 sinker from Reds’ right-hander Raisel Iglesias. 6-3 Nationals.
Sean Doolittle took the mound in the bottom of the ninth with a three-run lead and hit a batter with one out, and gave a two-out, two-run home run to center by Phil Gosselin, 6-5, but locked it up, earning the save and giving the Nationals the sweep.
Nationals now 3-0