Gio Gonzalez was winless in his last seven starts, with a 7.18 ERA, 19 walks, 27 Ks, and a .310/.397/.516 line against in 31 1⁄3 innings pitched over that stretch, though he showed signs of life against the Miami Marlins the last time out before taking on the Pittsburgh Pirates in Wednesday’s series finale in PNC Park.
Gonzalez gave up eight hits but just two earned runs in a five-inning, 114-pitch outing at home in the nation’s capital against the Fish, but wasn’t happy that his high pitch count climbing like it did led to a relatively brief start.
Asked to assess his outing, after Mark Reynolds’ walk-off homer gave the Nationals a 3-2 win, Gonzalez said, “Mark Reynolds hit a home run. Game over. We won. That’s the most important thing.”
“He gave us all he had for five innings,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said that night, noting that though the pitch count got up there, Gonzalez gave him everything he had.
“That’s what I expect from Gio. Give me what you’ve got and he did that today.”
Working with Matt Wieters again for the first time since May 9th, Gonzalez, (who had a 2.25 ERA in five starts and 28 IP with Wieters behing the plate early this season vs a 3.52 ERA in four games and 23 IP with Spencer Kieboom, and a 5.35 ERA in eight games and 32 2/3 IP with Pedro Severino behind the dish), looked more comfortable out on the mound against the Pirates.
Gonzalez got through two scoreless on 18 pitches, but gave up a leadoff double to left field by Jordy Mercer in the third, and a two-out, two-run homer to center field by Starling Marte which drove in the only two runs the lefty allowed in what ended up being a six-inning, 89-pitch outing in a 2-0 loss.
Gio Gonzalez’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 89 P, 56 S, 4/3 GO/FO.
Martinez liked what he saw from the Nationals’ lone left-handed starter.
“He attacked the strike zone,” the first-year manager said. “He made quality pitches and that’s something we talked about. He did that today. He looked real good.
“That’s the Gio that I know so hopefully this will get him going and if he stays right there, we’ll win a lot of ballgames.”
“That’s a great great start for me in the right direction,” Gonzalez told reporters in Pittsburgh.
“I had a small talk with [Brandon Kintzler] on certain things, little things on using more of the hips, the body, and then [Wieters] kind of helped me out during the game telling me to slow down, let my arm catch up. All of that makes sense, but for me that’s a personal thing, which is great. It’s a step in the right direction.”
“He was able to locate when he needed to,” Wieters said. “It’s big for him to get aggressive and get them swinging. He did that today. He made pitches when he had to.”
Though MLB.com’s Gameday identified the pitch to Marte as a two-seamer, everyone on the Nats’ side said it was a changeup low in the zone the Pirates’ outfielder went down for and powered out to center field.
“It was one pitch,” Gonzalez said, “obviously you can take it back it’d be great, but it was still a pitch down at the bottom [of the zone].
“If he lets it go, it’s a strike. If he swings, the good news is I was more in the zone [today], which I wanted. It’s a lot better looking at it with one walk instead of five. I’ll take that every game.”
“It was a changeup,” Wieters added in discussing the pitch in question. “It was probably a bad call on my part. I knew he was probably sitting a little soft on Gio. That’s why we went with three fastballs first.
“He was still able to hit that changeup. It was middle-in but it was still down. It wasn’t a terrible pitch.
“[Marte] is a professional hitter. We just didn’t quite get him engaged enough on the fastball in before we went with the changeup.”
“The pitch was a bad pitch,” Martinez said, noting that Gonzalez said as much and the plan had been to pitch around Marte, with left-hander Gregory Polanco hitting behind him, who has reverse splits, though less power against left-handers.
“It was down and he was trying to go up. But he was good today. That’s the Gio that I love to see. He kept us in the game. We just didn’t hit. Our offense didn’t hit.”
Once again, hard to win when you don’t score any runs. The 2-0 loss was the ninth shutout loss in the Nationals’ last 36 games and the 10th overall for Washington on the season.