Everyone loves to see the strikeouts.
Left-hander Gio Gonzalez had plenty of them Monday in a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at a wet Citizens Bank Park. Finishing with nine strikeouts, Gonzalez yo-yoed back over Stephen Strasburg (64), for the team lead, and is now holding onto the major league top spot with 69 punchouts in nine starts.
More importantly, Gonzalez tallied another team first: win No. 6 on the season. Plus, the win was against the perennial top seed in the NL East, no less.
“It is one of those things for now,” Gonzalez said on MASN’s “Nats Xtra.” “(Stephen Strasburg) goes back out there and puts up another 10 strikeouts. It is fun watching him pitch, but at same time, I wasn’t thinking about that. I was trying to minimize the damage, especially against that lineup. You got to respect each one of those guys.”
Gonzalez went six innings, allowing only three hits with three walks and those nine strikeouts. But it took Gonzalez 108 pitches to get those 18 outs.
Manager Davey Johnson was again impressed but offered one caveat.
“Gio pitched a good ball game,” Johnson said on MASN’s “Nats Xtra.” “The only thing that bothered me was he threw a whole lot of pitches. He was pretty much unhittable, but his pitch count was way up there, and he gave me a strong six innings with a lot of pitches.”
Johnson said that, of course, strikeouts are good because you are getting a hitter out, but you are also, more often than not, spending more time getting each individual out. In turn, you are raising your pitch count.
“I’d prefer he didn’t have as many strikeouts or as many pitches so he could go further,” Johnson said. “He has such great stuff. I’d prefer he get into the seventh or eighth inning. Six innings puts a crimp in my bullpen.”
That is a fine line for any pitcher. You want to get the guy out, but if you can induce a grounder in the first two pitches instead of playing a chess match for 10 throws, you are more likely to be fresher and to be able to go into the seventh or even the eighth.
But first things first, Gonzalez was dominating. And the Nats have won two straight. More crucial is that the Nats have now won the first game in four of the last five series’ played. And this one was against the Phillies. That’s big-time stuff. Just ask Gio.