Coming off a disastrous one-plus inning start against the Tampa Bay Rays in which he gave up three hits, five walks, and six earned runs, throwing 62 pitches before he was lifted, Gio Gonzalez got off to a good start against the Phillies on the road in Citizens Bank Park in his last start before last night’s, with four scoreless in which he gave up just one hit and a walk.
Gonzalez was at 49 pitches after the fourth against the Phillies, but 40 pitches, two hits, three walks, and three runs later, he was done for the day after five innings of work in a 5-2 loss, which extended a streak of winless outings to six straight overall.
“He fell behind that inning, and that’s what happens,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said of the long fifth in Philly.
“When he falls behind and walks guys, bad things happen. Up until that point he was really good, but he was getting ahead of hitters.”
Martinez said he regularly talks to Gonzalez between and during his outings in an attempt to get the southpaw to maintain his composure, even when things go south like they did in the fifth in Philadelphia.
“We talk a lot before he goes out there and then as he’s pitching we try to encourage him that, ‘Hey, you’re doing good, just keep that little man out of your head there,’” Martinez explained.
“But Gio is a professional, he’s won a lot of games, so I expect him to go out there and give us seven or eight innings and be the Gio that we know he can be.”
After working around a one-out walk in the first and a leadoff walk and one-out single in the second inning against the Miami Marlins last night, Gonzalez gave up a run in the top of the third when Cameron Maybin singled, moved up on a bunt and score on an RBI line drive by Starlin Castro, who lined a 2-1 changeup to left for his 21st double of the season.
Gonzalez escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth, with a 5-3 DP getting him out of trouble, but the 21-pitch frame left him at 85 for the game, and back-to-back-to-back hits and a bases-loaded, one-out walk in the Marlins’ fifth forced in a run after the Nationals took a 2-1 lead in the home-half of the fourth inning, 2-2.
Back-to-back Ks got Gonzalez out of the inning, and left the bases loaded, but the 29-pitch inning left the lefty at 114 pitches total and ended his outing.
Gio Gonzalez’s Line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 Ks, 114 P, 66 S, 6/2 GO/FO.
It stayed tied at 2-2 until the bottom of the ninth, when Mark Reynolds untied it with a walk-off home run that gave the Nationals their second straight win over the Marlins in the series and 13th straight win over the Fish overall.
“He gave us all he had for five innings,” Martinez said when asked about the left-hander’s start.
“His pitch count was high. That’s what I expect from Gio. Give me what you’ve got and he did that today. Got out of a big inning, kept it tied, and I was proud of him.”
Gonzalez didn’t have much to say when asked to assess his own outing.
“Mark Reynolds hit a home run. Game over. We won. That’s the most important thing.”
As for what’s working and makes him comfortable with Kieboom behind the plate?
“He’s a big strike zone,” Gonzalez said.
“Big guy, other than that, it’s we’re both working on the same things, trying to get pitches over the plate. Just working on it, but managed to squeeze through and get through it.”
Gonzalez’s teammate, Adam Eaton, talked to reporters after the win, about the experience of working behind the Nationals’ southpaw, who was in and out of trouble all night with all the men on base and daring escapes from what could have been big innings.
“That’s kind of Gio’s MO isn’t it,” Eaton joked. “Get a runner on third base with nobody out, strike the next two guys out and then got a pop fly. That’s kind of how he goes about his business and he’s made a career out of it. Heck of a career at that. It’s an art for him, I feel like, it really is, to get in those jams and get out of it. We’re all biting our nails and very scared in the moment, but like I said, he ends up getting out of things, but that’s what he does, and we’re happy he’s on our team. If he has another way he wouldn’t allow that to happen, but he’s pitched so well for us in the first half, really.
“As a whole in the first-half he’s pitched extremely well for us, so I’m excited for the one start that he has until the second half and the second half on.
“I think he’ll turn those kind of woes around and be really productive for us like he has been all year.”