Jun 18, 2014, 3:13 PM EST
Gio Gonzalez last started a game for the Nationals on May 17, and the results weren’t pretty. On the heels of an even uglier start in Oakland, the left-hander allowed five runs and seven hits in only three innings against the Mets, saw his ERA spike to 4.62 and then admitted afterward he had shoulder discomfort. The Nats placed Gonzalez on the disabled list, and though an MRI showed nothing more than inflammation, it took him a month to make it back to the mound.
That Gonzalez is pitching again tonight is good news for the Nationals. But until they actually see how he fares against the Astros, there’s no way to know for sure that he is back to his old self. Obviously, Matt Williams, Steve McCatty and Co. will be watching him closely and probably will err on the side of caution if they see anything they don’t like.
If the Nationals lineup can duplicate last night’s 6-run performance, much of the pressure will be taken off Gonzalez. With a huge, 4-game series against the Braves set to begin tomorrow, a win tonight (and a 2-game sweep of Houston) would certainly catapult this team into that big series in a good frame of mind.
Updates to come on a scorching-hot evening at the ballpark, so please stay cool and please check back…
HOUSTON ASTROS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 183, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 93 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to RF
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Ryan Zimmerman
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Sandy Leon
LHP Gio Gonzalez
CF Dexter Fowler
2B Jose Altuve
RF George Springer
1B Jon Singleton
3B Matt Dominguez
C Jason Castro
SS Jonathan Villar
LF Robbie Grossman
RHP Scott Feldman
HP Larry Vanover (cc)
1B Angel Hernandez
2B Adrian Johnson
3B Paul Nauert
7:07 p.m. — Gio Gonzalez’s first pitch off the DL: a 91-mph fastball inside for ball one. Gametime temperature when he threw that pitch: 94 degrees.
7:12 p.m. — The bad news: Gonzalez issued an 8-pitch walk to Dexter Fowler to begin this game. The good news: He then recorded three outs on two pitches to end the inning. Jose Altuve grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, and George Springer lofted a flyball to the warning track in right-center. Tough to find fault with those results.
7:32 p.m. — And 20 minutes later, the bottom of the first is complete with the Nats scoring one run on one hit and two walks. The real key to the rally: Three stolen bases (one by Denard Span, two by Anthony Rendon). Span was initially called out on his steal of second, but Matt Williams challenged the ruling and despite a lengthy delay of 2 minutes, 8 seconds, the call was overturned. That paid off, because Span wound up scoring on Adam LaRoche’s sac fly. All told, the Nats stole three bases on Scott Feldman’s first 19 pitches. It would appear he’s a bit slow to the plate. 1-0 Nats after one.
7:40 p.m. — Two innings in the books and Gio has walked the leadoff man both times, struck out two, hit 93 mph on the radar gun and faced the minimum. So, basically, he appears to be back. That’s Gio for you.
7:49 p.m. — Another stolen base by Span off Feldman in the bottom of the second. The Nats put two men on in the inning, with Danny Espinosa beating out a nice drag bunt. But they couldn’t make anything out of it. They’ve got three hits, two walks and four stolen bases in only two innings, yet they’ve scored just the one run so far.
8:43 p.m. — We just completed the top of the fourth, and things have not been pretty for Gio Gonzalez. He was just roughed up for four runs in the just-completed inning, which began with his third leadoff walk of the night. The Astros have taken a 4-2 lead, and Ross Detwiler was up warming in the pen earlier. He has since taken a seat, but you’ve got to think there’s a really short hook on Gio now.
8:58 p.m. — Well, he made it through the fifth, despite giving up a leadoff single to Fowler. That’s five innings and five leadoff men reaching base against Gio tonight. He battled through this one, striking out Singleton to end the inning on 93 pitches. It remains a 4-2 Astros lead, and now you’ve got to assume Gio is done for the night.
9:13 p.m. — Gio’s final line: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HBP, 93 pitches, 61 strikes. Not great. Feldman, meanwhile, has thrown 103 pitches in five innings, yet has only allowed two runs. Ross Detwiler in for the top of the sixth, the Nats still down 4-2.
9:34 p.m. — The Nats get a run back in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to Span’s 2-out double, scoring Espinosa (who recorded his second successful drag bunt of the night). Span was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple, but it’s now a 4-3 game heading to the seventh.
9:56 p.m. — And 22 minutes later, the top of the seventh is complete, the Astros having scored an insurance run on Detwiler’s wild pitch, one on which he was late to cover the plate. Detwiler wound up loading the bases after that, and Aaron Barrett had to come in and clean up the mess. So it’s 5-3 Astros as we have finally reached the seventh-inning stretch. Oh, and the heat index is still 91 degrees.
10:20 p.m. — And now the Nats have come all the way back to take the lead with a 3-run rally in the bottom of the seventh. Rendon got it started by launching the first pitch of the inning into the Red Porch for his 10th homer. Werth drew a walk, then had a great read to go first-to-third on LaRoche’s single to center. Zimmerman beat out a double-play grounder, bringing home the tying run. Desmond doubled to force Bo Porter to intentionally walk Espinosa and load the bases for Leon. Williams countered by pinch-hitting Nate McLouth, who delivered with a sac fly on the first pitch he saw. Just like that, the Nats lead 6-5 and Tyler Clippard (gulp!) enters for the eighth.
10:28 p.m. — That’s exactly what Clippard needed: a 1-2-3 inning. Tonight, he departs to rousing cheers from the crowd, having protected the 6-5 lead.
10:36 p.m. — OK, it’s Rafael Soriano vs. a pinch-hitter, Fowler and Altuve in the ninth. Buckle your seat belts.
10:49 p.m. — Ballgame. Nats win 6-5. They sweep the 2-game series and move to 1 1/2 games up in the NL East heading into a huge, 4-game series with the Braves.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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