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Gonzalez shines in Nats shutout win

Jun 24, 2014, 10:14 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

For Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, Monday night’s 3-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers must have brought quite the sigh of relief.

The lefty entered the game with a 4.85 ERA after a recent stint on the disabled list. He later left hugging his teammates and pitching coach Steve McCatty in the dugout after throwing six scoreless innings against one of baseball’s top lineups.

Gio needed a rebound start, and now the Nationals’ rotation could be really falling into place.

Gonzalez turned in perhaps his best outing of the season against what could be the NL’s best team. Milwaukee has the National League’s best record at 47-31, had a four-game winning streak going, and boasted the fifth ranked offense.

Gonzalez had a tough test and passed it convincingly, this after a rocky few months. In his previous three starts, Gio had allowed 16 earned runs in 12 1/3 innings. The third was his first outing since returning from the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation, and it was ugly. He got rocked by the Houston Astros for four runs in five innings on five hits and three walks.

Gonzalez finally looked like he belonged again in what is arguably the game’s best starting rotation. Even after his six shutout innings, Gonzalez’ ERA now sits at 4.38 on the year. That’s not even that bad, but when juxtaposed with his rotation-mates, it’s a clear outlier.

Of the other four Nationals starters, only Stephen Strasburg has an ERA above three and his is at 3.24. Doug Fister (2.65), Tanner Roark (2.79) and Jordan Zimmermann (2.95) all rank in the top 15 among NL starters, respectively.

To have Gonzalez coming around is a great sign for the Nationals, especially given his otherwise consistent track record. In the four seasons prior to 2014, he held a 3.15 ERA across 797 2/3 total innings. Only eight other pitchers were as good from 2010-13 with at least 100 starts.

Gonzalez needed 114 pitches on Monday night as the Brewers got to him for three hits and four walks. Milwaukee had its best chance in the bottom of the third with bases loaded and two outs. Jean Segura led off with a single and reached third on a sac bunt and a stolen base. Rickie Weeks then walked to bring Ryan Braun up with runners on the corners.

Gonzalez got Braun to strike out swinging on three pitches before a walk to Jonathan Lucroy loaded the bases. Up came Carlos Gomez, who is hitting .312 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI. Gonzalez got him to promptly line out on the second pitch to end the inning and escape the jam.

Perhaps one MLB start after returning from the DL was all that Gonzalez needed, that he is back to being his old self. It worked for Fister who was batted around in his first game back from an injury, and look what he has done since.

The Nationals’ rotation was already a strength, but its final piece could be slotting into place.

Matt Williams ejected for first time as manager in Milwaukee

It took 75 games into the 2014 season, but Matt Williams earned his first ejection as an MLB manager in the Nationals’ game against the Brewers Monday night in Milwaukee.

The initial disagreement came on a called strike three in the top of the second inning. Danny Espinosa was up at the plate with the bases loaded and no outs when a pitch that looked outside of the strike zone earned him an out. With a full count, a ball would have walked home a run.

Williams protested two outs later after the frame was over and was quickly tossed by home plate umpire Mark Wegner. Television cameras showed Williams walking down the hall away from the dugout after exiting the game.

Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr then took over for Williams to manage the final seven innings of the Nats’ 3-0 win.

  1. natsjackinfl - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    Only Gio can throw 8 innings worth of pitches in 6 innings and escape with 3 hit, shut out baseball.

    But I will take it and be happy.

    • knoxvillenat - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      Agreed.

      I was skeptical last night if he could complete 6 innings when he had thrown 60 pitches in the first three however he got the job done and got it done well.

  2. Section 222 - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    “Gonzalez shines.” “Best outing of the season.” “Tough test and passed it convincingly.” Sure could have fooled anyone reading the game post thread last night. Of course, over 1/3 of that thread was the pitch by pitch commentary of a single commenter who needs to quiet down and enjoy the game.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      The end result was good. The process was tough to watch at times and Gio did a Houdini act to escape.

      That bases loaded spot where Gomez smacked that ball to left was guided right to RZim. Off the bat I thought “trouble”. Ryan was already playing deep and had no trouble getting it.

      Was that good pitching or lucky BABIP? You could say Gio was unlucky in prior starts and it evened out.

      I will take the end result. Shutout W!

    • jd - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      Deuces,

      I discovered a long time ago that game post threads are nearly unreadable. I now follow the games with my computer off.

      For starters you have the moron who had more posts than Gio had pitches. Whenever something goes remotely wrong SWM comes out of his cage, Mick is ready to DFA only about 15 – 20 players, fire the manager and replace our all star SS with Frandsen.

      There are a couple of intelligent posters who post during games but it’s just not worth the effort.

    • natsjackinfl - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      There’s 1 or 2 regular posters to the in game thread that make it absolutely unreadable. I get more in game information and entertainment on twitter and that’s with the 140 character limit.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        I think on Twitter you can follow only those you want and block people from following you. That controls the content.

        On here, it’s hard to believe some of them are Nats fans.

        By the way, when will you get a look at some of the new draft class.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        I thought I was responding to NatsJack.

      • sjm308 - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        Like jd, I have long ago stopped looking at Insider until the game is over

        It was funny for awhile to read David P and dc wonk fight the LoD but it got old quick.

        I am saddened to realize that Mick has really joined the Legion. Believe me, his heart is in the right place but it’s rare to find many posts of his with any brightness in them.

        Win today and another series goes to the good guys!

      • adcwonk - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        Yeah, sometimes I like to keep in shape by shooting fish in a barrel.

  3. Eric - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    I think he was a little too unpolished to say he was shining, but he certainly did an admirable job, particularly when the pressure was very high and he had a new lead to protect.

    I was really nervous when he took the mound in the 6th and *really* happy for him when that DP was completed.

    I really enjoyed seeing the interaction between Fister and him right after he finished for the night.

  4. Doc - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Good for Gio!

    The FB wasn’t quite up to his standard velo, but his change was pure magic!

  5. David Proctor - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    Interesting, from the Brewers website:

    “Brewers batters knew they faced a tough test in the left-handed Gonzalez, who was making his second start since a monthlong stint on the disabled list for a shoulder injury. But they did not expect 23.7 percent of his 114 pitches to be changeups, a clip that exceeded both Gonzalez’s career rate (8.9 percent entering the night) and his career-high rate this season (13.9 percent).

    “It shocked everybody,” said Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez, who went 0-for-4 to snap a career-best 18-game hitting streak and an MLB-high 35-game streak of reaching safely. “I never in my career seen as many changeups as I saw today. They got me out today on changeups. Every at-bat, they threw me changeups. I didn’t expect to see [more] than maybe one. Not like continually, like they’ve been doing.

    “It’s part of the game. They made the adjustment and came today strong, making big pitches. They got us today. Good for Washington.””

    • natsjackinfl - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      And that makes two hitting streaks ended in two days for the Nats staff.

      Love it.

      • Eric - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        +1!

      • natsfan1a - Jun 24, 2014 at 4:27 PM

        +2

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      David, good feedback. Gio needs a true 3rd pitch which could be the changeup. Fastball and curveball combo work fine for him if he is hitting spots.

      His velo seemed to be down again. Sitting 90 to 92 but the good news is that he was getting movement.

    • Eric - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:57 AM

      That might be the best hat tip I’ve ever read. Thanks for sharing!

    • Section 222 - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:46 AM

      Great stuff DP. Thanks for flagging it. It was brilliant to throw first pitch changeups to the free swinging Gomez. Kudos to whoever had that idea. Gio’s stuff was great, even if his command wasn’t.

  6. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    Gio walks people. He always has, and there’s no reason to think that will change much. Package deal. Ain’t broke, nothing to fix.

    • Eric - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      Yeah, but it seems like 4 is high, even for him. I feel like it’s usually 1 or 2 with lots of additional 2-2 and 3-2 counts.

      In any case, great outing against a strong line up.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        No, actually his career average is about one walk every two innings, so it’s not far off to walk 4 in 6 innings, for him. Even if you only take the Nats years, 2012-13, which has been better than when he was in Oakland, you’d expect 2 or 3.

        It seems like a lot after watching Fister and Znn and Roark, but that’s just how he pitches.

      • Eric - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:52 AM

        Gotcha, thanks for the stats. Guess it’s just been awhile since I’ve seen Gio in top form. Now that I think back, bases-loaded jams aren’t exactly rare with him, but then again, neither is him wriggling out of them.

  7. NatsLady - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    I was at Miller Park last night. Put some observations in the game post. Gotta run, might go again tonight, depends on how long the family barbeque lasts…

    • TimDz - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      Family BBQ on a Tuesday?
      My kind of family…..

      • dcwx61 - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:13 AM

        they can’t have one in Chicago on Sunday…There’s a parade

      • sjberke - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        Yeah , it’s the same parade (Chicago GLBT Pride) that is the reason the Nats and Cubs are playing a day-night doubleheader Saturday and no game Sunday; the route goes a couple blocks from Wrigley and the local alderman asked the Cubs to reschedule to lessen traffic (this from the Cubs website).

  8. TimDz - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    Gio can be a bit like Soriano (in that he can be frustration to watch), but he got the job done…..
    If the playoffs started now, I don’t think Gio would be in the four man rotation….not the way the other four are pitchung…..

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      Tim, I agree. Gio is the #5 right now but it’s a long season that isn’t even 1/2 over. A lot can change.

      Fister is my #1 JZim #2 Stras is my #3 because I believe he still has Ace in him. Roark my #4 and I would find a place for Treinen in my post-season roster.

      Bochy once left Zito off his postseason roster and banished Lincecum to his postseason bullpen.

      • natsjackinfl - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        Saw your question on getting to see some of the draft class, Ghost. I get over to the Viera area 2 times a month, but the GCL Nats have been in Jupiter and St.Lucie my last 2 trips.

        I’ll get there within the next two weeks. Looking forward to seeing Reetz and the are using him as a catcher for now.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        Reetz will be fun to watch. Looking forward to your thoughts.

      • Section 222 - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        And they won the World Series, IIRC.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:58 AM

        Yes, when Zito was left off they won and when Lincecum went to the ‘pen they won.

        Sabean also made some great deadline trades that had immediate impact.

    • 6ID20 - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:19 AM

      A lot would depend on who they are facing. They might want a lefty. Also, the playoff rosters can be reset for each series, including the WC game. But it’s way too early yet to be planning playoff rosters.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        When has “early” ever stopped a fanbase. ;)

        Yes, more than 1/2 a season to go.

        The valid point is if you rated your Nats starters today, no doubt in my mind Gio is the #5. Lets talk on September 30th.

      • Section 222 - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        I think it will be fair to talk quite a while before Sept 30 if the Nats are headed to the playoffs. MW will want to line up his starters for one thing. Even if you were starting the playoffs today, you might want Gio as the 4th starter, and Roark in the BP. But it would be a tough call.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        Deuces, the in-game posters are demanding the Nats must win the World Series by mid-August, or the season is wasted and the team is a bunch of choking monster-dogs.

  9. dcwx61 - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Not that y’all don’t know this already, but the sportsbeat is catching up

    could be some of the best pitching since the 08 cubs ???

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140624&content_id=81289020&vkey=perspectives&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

    • Section 222 - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      Thanks for the link. Good stuff. The MLB Net guys are all over the Nats too. Brian Kenny and Mitch Williams have always been fans. Dan Pliesak has been high on them too. But now the bandwagon is forming.

  10. scnatsfan - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    Rarely when Gio pitches is it pretty; he has in past years got the job done almost in spite of himself. To posters like me all of the wasted pitches, all of the full and behind counts drive me nuts but generally I find something to drive me nuts during the game.

    Hate the later starts, gets an old man like me to bed at 11:30 and tired at work.

  11. Joe Seamhead - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    We traded four pretty good prospects for Gio before the 2012 season. “That” Gio led the American League in walks for the 2011 year with Oakland. “This” Gio still walks lots of guys. Probably always will. I count wins, not walks, as the important thing.

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