Sep 19, 2013, 10:02 PM EDT
Game in a nutshell: Gio Gonzalez had to pitch on Thursday night a day earlier than expected because of Stephen Strasburg being held out by Davey Johnson. It was also his 28th birthday. Though it may have been short notice, Gonzalez overcame a high pitch count after three innings to give the Nats six frames of two-run ball. He gave up one run in the top of the first to put the Nats down right from the start, but a three-run homer in the bottom half of the inning by Bryce Harper erased the deficit. Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano (42nd save) closed it out as the Nationals held on for their 82nd win of the year. That secures their second best season since moving to Washington and gains a half-game on the Reds. With Cincinnati having the day off, the win cut the NL Wild Card margin to five games.
Hitting highlight: The Nats put all three of their runs on the board in the bottom of the first, all on a big swing from Harper. Ryan Zimmerman hit a one-out single to right field and was joined on base by Jayson Werth who walked. Harper then took a 2-2 pitch from Alvarez into the first row of seats above the scoreboard in right-center field. It was a line drive smash and gave the Nats all the runs they would need.
Pitching highlight: Gio, the birthday boy, allowed a run in the first on back-to-back doubles by Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas to start the game, before he even recorded an out. He also threw 62 pitches through the first three innings. But after an eight-pitch fourth inning and an 11-pitch fifth, Gonzalez was able to go six and leave after 105 total on the night. His final line was as follows: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO. Gio also took home his 11th win of the year.
Key stat: Harper’s three-run homer was his 20th of the season, making him the fifth Nats player to reach that mark this year. Zimmerman, Werth, LaRoche and Desmond are the others. That sets a franchise record and ties them with the Braves and Blue Jays for most players on the same team to hit 20 this season.
Up next: Game 2 of this four-game set is Friday night with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch. Right-hander Jacob Turner (3-7, 3.51) takes the ball for Miami with Jordan Zimmermann (18-8, 3.33) pitching for the Nats.
NL EAST STANDINGS
FRI: Giants at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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