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Gonzalez sees progress in latest start

Aug 27, 2014, 10:40 AM EST

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PHILADELPHIA — There was a time when a 6-inning, 3-run start would have disappointed Gio Gonzalez. But these days, the Nationals’ erratic left-hander is finding the positives in each of his outings, so his latest one Tuesday night against the Phillies left him more encouraged than discouraged.

“It’s progress,” Gonzalez said. “Obviously, everyone wants to go six, seven innings scoreless, eight innings scoreless. … It’s a work in progress. I knew it was going to be a tough game from the beginning. Cole Hamels has been pitching great. I was going to try to match him up as much as possible.”

Gonzalez couldn’t quite match Hamels, who carried a shutout into the seventh but departed after giving up two runs that inning followed by a leadoff homer to Asdrubal Cabrera in the eighth. But this ultimately was a better performance by Gonzalez than several recent ones.

He made three mistakes, and one of them arguably wasn’t a mistake. He hung a curveball to Grady Sizemore that was lashed to right-center for a triple. He then left a fastball way up in the zone to Freddy Galvis, who tomahawked it over the left-field fence for a 2-run homer — “It’s a good pitch,” Gonzalez said. “He just got the bat head out and hit it down the line. Fair ball, home run.” — and then grooved a fastball to Darin Ruf that turned into another homer.

The most encouraging part of Gonzalez’s evening: He was much more efficient than in several recent starts. He got through the fourth inning on only 43 pitches, and was pulled after six innings despite throwing only 87 pitches.

That continued a positive trend for the lefty. After averaging a whopping 22 pitches per inning in starts against the Braves and Pirates, he has averaged only 14 in his last two starts against the Diamondbacks and Phillies.

In the big picture, Gonzalez may not be where he or the Nationals would prefer. He’s 6-9 with a 3.86 ERA and hasn’t won a game since July 5. But there has been, as he pointed out Tuesday night, actual progress. Over his last 12 starts, Gonzalez has a 3.07 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP that is comparable to the mark he posted last season.

“It’s little by little, getting on top of the pitches,” he said. “Curveball is starting to snap a little more. I’ve got to start learning how to stop throwing them for a strike when you get ahead of the hitter and start putting it down more lower in the strike zone. Other than that, it’s definitely a pitch that’s actually worked and is starting to shape up.”

  1. micksback1 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    Gio pitched well overall

  2. jd - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Really my only complaint with Gio’s work last night was the 0-2 pitch to Sizemore. You really have to throw a nastier pitch when you are 0-2. Also, you can’t miss a bunt sign in an obvious bunting situation and you have to put down a bunt when needed.

    All in all he had a decent game.

  3. natsguy - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    It is too bad that they lost a game due to a missed bunt and a questionable call by Instant replay. I suppose its better than losing due to bad pitching. The bunt was a killer. They are still Ok and things are getting tougher for Atlanta every day. There is almost not enough games left for Atlanta just like the Nats last year. Its all about the percentages.

    • jd - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      I don’t know if the missed bunt was a killer, it was early in the game and there is no guarantee that the run scores even if the bunt is down. Still, you shouldn’t be missing signs in late August. I don’t really have a huge problem with the overturned call because in the end I think they got it right. Was it so obvious they had to overturn the call? I don’t know but still it wasn’t an egregious error.

  4. natsguy - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Frandsen has joined the “grinding” generation. I didn’t know that playing a childrens game and getting highly paid to do that was such a grind. I really hate that cliche. I really hate most cliches.

    • natsbro - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      When you talk to the media 1,000,000 and they ask the same dumb questions over and over again I can see how you just resort to talking in cliches. Most of the problems with post game interviews/interviews in general these days are that they are the same damn questions over and over again.

      • natsguy - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:48 AM

        I don’t disagree with you. I guess that’s why I don’t listen or read the interviews anymore.

      • natsguy - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:49 AM

        I always think of Bull Durham when I hear the crap in the interviews. No one wants to “rock the boat” (cliche).

      • bowdenball - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        natsguy- you complaining about overused cliches has kind of become an overused cliche, has it not?

  5. Doc - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    Gio only walked 1 guy, and that is progress. A little bit of run support and he would have been a winner.

    His FB isn’t quite as fast as in other years. Leaving it high is a disaster waiting to happen. Freddy Galvis, a reject from the minor leagues doesn’t deserve to hit anybody’s FB.

    Gio is right on target about what he needs to do. Must be watching Fister more closely.

    • natsguy - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:46 AM

      JZIM is also a pitcher who has no run support. He would have 3 or 4 more wins with a little support.

      • jd - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:12 PM

        Who cares? Individual pitchers W-L mean zilch and pretty much everyone knows it.

      • Section 222 - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:01 PM

        jd, everyone knows it except for a not insignifcant number of commenters here, who are encouraged when Mark writes something like: Gio “he hasn’t won a game since July 5.”

        Gio hasn’t been great in his nine starts since he won a game. But he hasn’t been awful either. He’s had 4 quality starts, but in those starts, the Nats scored 3, 0, 1, and 3 runs respectively. In the other five starts, he gave up 3, 5, 4, 2 and 3 earned runs, while the Nats scored 5, 4, 1, 1, and 4 runs. In only 3 of those starts did he pitch less than 5 innings, so he W-L record over that period (0-5) could easily be very different with more run support.

    • adcwonk - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      Gio is right on target about what he needs to do. Must be watching Fister more closely.

      Was it just me, or did anyone else also think that Gio, when bases were empty, was working faster than usual? (Which is a Fister-kind-of-thing to do — probably with good results)

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        Gio gets a bad rap as to his pace. He’s actually second fastest on the Nats, and 17th overall. None of the Nats pitchers are slow between pitchers. Stras is slowest, but 56th overall. Gio’s problem is throwing strikes and not being able to put batters alway.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=100&type=15&season=2014&month=0&season1=2014&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=11,a

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:45 PM

        To follow up, according to Baseball Reference, Gio is the least efficient of our starters, in terms of pitches per at bat:

        Gio 4.31
        Roark 3.80
        Stras 3.79
        Fister 3.75
        JZimm 3.60

        So it takes Gio about 20% more pitches per at bat than Jordan Zimmerman, which can lead to longer innings, diminished effectiveness, and shorter outings.

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        mfk

        Thanks for those #s!

        Just to clarify, it’s pitches per plate appearance (not AB) and Gio is currently listed as 4.03 (maybe an update after last night?), so that’s more like a 12% difference from JZimm. Still significant, but not quite as bad.

        League average is 3.8, where the other 3 guys are all basically grouped.

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:55 PM

        HH, thanks for checking my work. Not sure how I got 4.31. But my point remains, at least a little.

  6. adcwonk - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Been mostly too busy to read NI over the last 24 hours — I just skimmed a few comments. My quick impressions are:

    1. I was happy to see as few Gio-bashing comments as there were. (As for the bunt: look, he’s an AL pitcher who’s bad with the bat. However much Gio’s batting is trashed, let’s remember that Span was 0-for-4 and could’ve picked him up — we can also remember that the winning run got on because Ian made a too-high throw.)

    2. I was happy to see as few critical-of-Nats and/or panicking comments, too. Had there been more, the following tidbits would be part of a good response:

    – Nats majic number is 24 — the smallest number in MLB
    — Nats haven’t lost two straight since Aug 5, quite a nice stretch.

    Go Nats! (And Go Mets! (for this week))

    • rayvil01 - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:27 PM

      No panic. I want to see them as crisp as possible. Last two games were win-able with better execution.

  7. natsguy - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    Bowdenball,

    I guess whatever I say is considered overused by you. There, no cliches used.

    To the RCG group, sometimes you have to call it what it is and not be so cloyingly positive.

    • bowdenball - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      You complain constantly about players using cliches. It was already kind of a weird thing to complain about, as many have noted. But the irony of complaining about cliches by continuing to say the same exact thing over and over again to the same audience is a bit striking, is it not?

  8. David Proctor - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    The unfortunate thing is that this series was the easy part of a very tough road trip. We’re 0-2 and staring down Felix, Iwakuma and Kershaw. We’re going to have to clean up the sloppiness. The errors, the failure to advance runners, etc.

    • masterfishkeeper - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      And quite possibly Ryu, who the Dodgers may activate and start on Monday!

      • bowdenball - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        It’s hard to really complain about possibly having to face a #3 starter, though. We’ll miss Greinke at least.

        Gotta say, it’s quite a wake-up call to find outselves dreading these quality rotations over the next week. Makes you realize how frustrating it must be for fans of the other NL East teams when they see the 2014 Nats on the schedule!

      • David Proctor - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        Greinke has been vulnerable lately. He’s been dealing with elbow soreness (uh oh) and his last couple starts haven’t been very good.

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        bowdenball, true enough, especially when the #3 is lefthanded. But I was really looking forward to seeing two games against Hernandez and Haren, so I’m disappointed.

  9. ehay2k - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Does Go looked like he’s a bit nicked up? Is it his balky shoulder? Perhaps he has a bit of a dead arm, because his velo is down? Maybe that’s why he can’t give 110% and help the ballclub? I guess he’ll just have to take one start at a time, and have a short memory when he struggles.

    I will cliche as I please, tyvm.

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