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Instant analysis: Nats 3, Cubs 0

Jun 28, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: With a long day of baseball staring them in the face, the Nationals knew they needed to pour everything they had into the opener of today’s doubleheader at Wrigley Field, lest they drop their third straight to the Cubs (fourth straight overall) and face the daunting task of needing to beat Jeff Samardzija in the nightcap to avoid a sweep.

So the NL East leaders took the field and did just that, flexing their muscles a bit against the NL Central cellar dwellers. Gio Gonzalez was brilliant over seven scoreless innings, scattering two hits and two walks while striking out seven and keeping his pitch count down. Denard Span made a pair of brilliant plays in center field to account for all three outs in the fourth. And the lineup came through in a couple of big spots late against rookie right-hander Dallas Beeder and the Cubs bullpen.

Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano then finished off this shutout victory, snapping the Nationals’ brief losing streak and putting them in position to salvage a 4-game series split later tonight as the season’s first half comes to an end.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: How did the Nationals score their three runs today? Thanks to the top of the lineup. Span and Anthony Rendon each reached base three times, and though Span was picked off in the top of the sixth, that mistake didn’t wind up costing his team a whole lot. Rendon delivered big once again, roping a double down the left-field line in the sixth (and ultimately scoring thanks to a passed ball and a wild pitch) and then lining a triple to the gap in right-center to score Span in the seventh. Rendon now has 45 RBI through 80 games, putting him on pace for slightly more than 90 over the full season. For a guy batting second most days, that’s mighty impressive.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: All things considered, what a performance by Gonzalez. Though he threw six scoreless innings against the Brewers on Monday, his fastball command and velocity were all over the place, leading to a whopping pitch count of 114. The results were the same this time, but the process was significantly better. Gonzalez tossed seven scoreless innings on only 99 pitches. The key: Excellent fastball command. His velocity was up a few notches, as well, topping out at 93 mph. So that’s now 13 consecutive scoreless innings from the left-hander, who over his last two starts has lowered his ERA from 4.85 to 3.93.

KEY STAT: This was the first time the Nationals shut out the Cubs in 31 games at Wrigley Field since 2005.

UP NEXT: Don’t stray too far, because these two teams will be right back on the field at 7:15 p.m. EDT for the nightcap. Blake Treinen returns from Class AAA Syracuse to start for the Nationals, with ace Jeff Samardzija on the hill for the Cubs. Remember, this game is on Fox, but only in parts of the country. Here’s the broadcast coverage map.

  1. Joe Seamhead - Jun 28, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    Untuck, Baby!
    Great game from Gio!
    What can you say about Anthony Rendon?
    And who really thinks that Span is going to benched, or traded to make room for Zimm to stay in left? UZR? Pffitt…

  2. David Proctor - Jun 28, 2014 at 3:55 PM

    Win tonight and all the angst the last two nights is for naught. You’d prefer to win 3/4 from the Cubs, but you can live with a split.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 28, 2014 at 3:57 PM

      Agreed there are worse things then splitting with any ML team on the road. Even the Cubs. So, let’s get the split fellows!

  3. sjm308 - Jun 28, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    I missed the article or comments on Span. Was it a national commentator or an article?
    I have a hard time trusting the defensive numbers that are thrown out there. I can understand some of the offensive stats that are now considered important but as Seam and I have said a number of times, the first time I saw him “glide” to a ball in CF on opening day last season I thought we finally had our center fielder. He is not perfect as we saw when he was picked off but what a great game for Denard today and I love that his mom has sort of followed him around on this road trip.

    Win the 2nd game and we come home 4-3 on a road trip which is not horrible.

    Have to think the comments were tame at best, in fact I might just go reading while we wait for the PM game.

    Go Nats!!

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:14 PM

      SJM, the last time they were on FOX, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Nats were said to be looking to trade Span, because, he said, Span’s defense had declined since Minnesota. That, and Fangraphs’ UZR showed him in a very bad light (even though talking about season-to-date UZR is like talking about somebody’s lifetime batting average in their first game). So FP has been riding Rosenthal (not by name, but obviously if you saw that FOX game) on the air, ever since, every time Span makes a good play.

      • natsfan1a - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:17 PM

        Somebody oughta tweak that dude’s bow tie for him. I’m just saying…

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:24 PM

        For some reason, and this is totally unfair but there it is, I keep associating Rosenthal with Jim Gray, who got completely pwned by Pete Rose and, the next night, by Chad Curtis.

  4. BurnedOnce - Jun 28, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    Glad to be wrong about the sweep. Did see the game but sounds like Gio for one stepped it up. Good job.

  5. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    Awesome, awesome game… Good to see Gio dominate…

    Only downside is that the 2nd game will be on fox… Ugh, not sure I will be around to watch that one.. Have a prior engagement… So will record it and watch it later…

    Here’s to a Nats win!

    • natsfan1a - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:10 PM

      On the plus side, FP will take part in tonight’s broadcast.

  6. sjm308 - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    As I continue to over think stuff here is my lineup for the 2nd game
    Outfield of McClouth-Span-Werth
    Infield of LaRoche-Rendon-Espinosa and ZIMMERMAN
    Ramos catching

    I figure Zimm has to take that first step sometime. McClouth got 2 hits in the first game and I would play the hot hand there plus his defense is excellent.

    If they are going to play Zimm at 3rd on Monday, why wait?

    Go Nats!!

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:11 PM

      I think it will be the regular line up with Trienan going today…

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:19 PM

      Desi is, I think, 8-16 against the 2nd game ace starter. He plays. Give him tomorrow off. Oh, yeah, he is off tomorrow.

  7. natsfan1a - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    Great game. Loved Span’s defense, and the reaction shots of his mom. That one catch at the wall kinda reminded me of Bill Lee’s fanciful scenario about how he wants to make his “final out” (basically, it all ends with Lee making a running catch and slamming into the wall, and months later they find his skeleton in the ivy, or something like that). Funny stuff. Eh, maybe you had to be there. Anyhoo, nice game. Let’s play two!

  8. natsfan1a - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    On another note, I was musing during the game that beat writers might be hoping for the Cubbies starter to have control issues throughout, and they could then use the headline “Dallas Beeler’s Off Day.” Or maybe not.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:27 PM

      You’re a righteous dude-ette, 1a.

  9. Joe Seamhead - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:23 PM

    Rafael Soriano’s ERA now .109. Can I feel some love for him?

    • Sonny G 10 - Jun 28, 2014 at 5:29 PM

      Ok, Joe, I’m slowly coming around to feeling easier about him coming in the game. Can’t say I love him yet, but I don’t hate to see him come into the game.

  10. Faraz Shaikh - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:25 PM

    I have a ticket for Monday’s game. Anyone wants it? Free of cost, if I get the bobblehead. Ticket is in section 233, row F. I can just email the ticket PDF to whoever interested.

  11. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    Gio looked the best he has all year. Much needed. He was aggressive and got great D from Span and RZim and Desi.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:37 PM

      Add McLouth to great defense.

      • sjm308 - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:45 PM

        Agreed – that is why I am pushing for him to play two games in a row, rest Desmond and give Zimm his first shot at 3rd in an away game

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 28, 2014 at 4:47 PM

        Probably as good as time as any.

  12. sjm308 - Jun 28, 2014 at 5:59 PM

    Didn’t happen – line up posted

  13. Doc - Jun 28, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    Way to play the field, Den!

    Take that Rosenthal and Fangraphs!

    Up your ***** with tootisie rolls!!!!

  14. NatsNut - Jun 28, 2014 at 11:05 PM

    Heh. 99 pitches and a problem aint one. =)

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