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Washington Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez out early with high pitch count in 5-1 loss to Colorado Rockies...

“They just kept fouling some good pitches off and worked the pitch count,” Gio Gonzalez told reporters after throwing 106 pitches in five innings vs the Rockies in Nationals Park.

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MLB: Colorado Rockies at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Through two starts before Thursday night’s, 32-year-old lefty Gio Gonzalez had given up two earned runs in 11 13 innings (1.59 ERA, 1.81 FIP), holding the Cincinnati Reds to a run on five hits in six innings in his 2018 debut, and giving up six hits, three walks, and one earned run over 5 13 IP against the New York Mets in start No. 2.

Gonzalez threw 92 pitches total against the Mets, and he was lifted by bench coach Chip Hale after giving up back-to-back-to-back, one-out hits and the only run he allowed in the top of the sixth.

Hale was in charge at that point after Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez was ejected sticking up for Anthony Rendon, who was tossed for his reaction to a called strike three in the third.

“You know what, he was good,” Martinez said of Gonzalez.

“The sixth inning he left a couple balls up, his pitch count was up there a little bit. I know it’s a little cold. I think Chip did a good job monitoring all that stuff.”

In start No. 3 on Thursday night, the left-hander was facing the Colorado Rockies, against whom he was (4-0) in his five career starts going into the outing, with a 3.58 ERA in 27 23 innings pitched, and (2-0) with a 2.25 ERA in 12 IP against the Rockies in the nation’s capital.

Colorado Rockies v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Three pitches into the game, Gonzalez was down, 1-0, after DJ LeMahieu hit a 1-1 fastball out to left field for a leadoff home run, his third, and the Rockies’ NL leading 18th on the year as a team.

Gonzalez walked Chris Iannetta in the next at bat, and two outs later, the free pass came in on a pop to short right by Ian Desmond that Howie Kendrick tried to track, but couldn’t quite catch as he twisted in the wind and let it drop for what was originally ruled to be an RBI “double” that made it a 2-0 game. It was eventually changed to an error.

LeMahieu doubled to right with two down in the second, lining a 2-2 fastball from Gonzalez into the corner to drive Gerardo Parra in from second for a 3-0 lead.

Gonzalez kept them off the board after the second, though he was up to 73 pitches after a 26-pitch third, 84 pitches total after an 11-pitch fourth, and 106 overall following a 22-pitch fifth inning that ended his outing.

Gio Gonzalez’s Line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 106 P, 69 S, 5/1 GO/FO.

“Gio wasn’t at his best,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ 5-1 loss, “... but he grinded out some tough innings, got out of some tough situations, and he gave us five innings, 106 pitches.”

“I really didn’t think he was attacking the strike zone like he typically would,” Martinez told reporters when asked for his thoughts on Gonzalez’s struggles.

“Falling behind a little bit,” Martinez continued, “and then again like I said, after that he got out of some big jams, and he kept us fairly close in the game. We had one ball, a fly ball, that we should have been out of the inning just with one run that inning, so that hurt us a little bit.”

As for what happened to Kendrick on the pop, which let what ended up being the eventual winning run come in, Martinez said the second baseman just lost it in the wind.

“I think the wind,” Martinez qualified. “He broke the wrong way. Like I said, we would have gotten out of that inning with just giving up one run.”

“You know what, got to have it,” Kendrick said of the missed pop.

“Sometimes you get out there and you misjudge balls, and that’s just part of the game, but you feel worse for your pitcher than anything, cause a run scored there, we had two outs already, but hopefully next time I’ll make that play.”

“They just kept fouling some good pitches off and worked the pitch count,” Gonzalez said, of the Rockies’ hitters’ approach, “and [they] spit on pitches that were close to pretty good pitches, and they did a good job, they kept on fouling off pitches, working the count, and working my pitch count up.”

Gonzalez was asked what if any positives he could take from the outing.

“I think it’s a positive outing,” he said, “... especially when you’re going up against a team that’s kind of putting some hits together and working the pitch count like that, especially when they were just doing a good job making me work, and just keeping [it] as close as possible. It sucks, cause I wish I would have got in that groove a little earlier in the game, then I would have had a different outcome, but I just felt like it started up a little too late, in the third inning, that’s when I started feeling a little more comfortable going after them.”