Sep 9, 2013, 10:00 PM EDT
Game in a nutshell: The Nationals wasted no time at all pouncing on Mets right-hander Carlos Torres. Two batters into this game, they already led 2-0 thanks to back-to-back homers from Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman. They never let up, blasting three more homers by the fifth inning to take a commanding, 9-run lead. Given that kind of cushion, Gio Gonzalez was free to go right after New York’s hitters without fear, and the left-hander did it brilliantly. He issued a one-out walk in the first, then retired 17 batters in a row, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh. Alas, pinch-hitter Zach Lutz opened the seventh with a liner that just grazed the chalk behind first base, foiling Gonzalez’s attempt at history. He settled for a mere 1-hit shutout and his 10th win of the year. Thus the Nationals won for the 20th time in 29 games and now sit 5 games over .500, matching the high-point of their season. And with the Reds’ loss to the Cubs, the deficit in the NL Wild Card race is back down to 7 games.
Hitting highlight: How about five hitting highlights, each of them landing over the fence? It wouldn’t be fair to prioritize one of the Nationals’ home runs over the others, so let’s just run through them all: 1) Span opened the game by launching a 2-2 pitch over the wall in right, his fourth homer of the season and extending his hitting streak to 20 games, 2) Zimmerman followed seconds later with a bomb to left-center, his 21st of the year and his sixth in seven games, 3) Jayson Werth aggressively went after Torres’ first-pitch fastball in the third, crushing a 3-run homer, his 22nd of the season, 4) Tyler Moore led off the fourth with his fourth, a solo shot just to the left of the giant apple behind the center-field wall, 5) Wilson Ramos put the definitive stamp on this one, blasting a 3-run homer in the fifth, his 12th of the year. At that moment, the Nationals had six hits in the game, five of them home runs.
Pitching highlight: Gonzalez has been known to nibble around the strike zone when supplied a big lead, a pet peeve that drives Davey Johnson nuts. How ecstatic must the veteran skipper have been tonight to see his left-hander go right after the Mets lineup and not waste any time or pitches? Gonzalez issued the early walk to Daniel Murphy, then cruised after that. He mixed in his fastball, curveball and changeup effectively, kept his pitch count down and carried a no-hitter into the seventh. And if not for Lutz’s single that hit he chalk behind first base, he would’ve thrown the first no-hitter in Nationals history. Instead, he settled for the second 1-hitter in team history, matching earlier this year by Jordan Zimmermann.
Key stat: During his 20-game hitting streak, Span has raised his batting average from .258 to .282.
Up next: Jordan Zimmermann gets the ball for the second game of this four-game series, seeking his NL-leading 17th win. Notorious Nationals-killer Dillon Gee starts for the Mets at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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