That was a rare experience to see Gio Gonzalez not get to the fifth inning in a start for the Nationals. Coming into Thursday’s assignment against the Mets, Gonzalez had gone at least five frames in 16 of his initial 18 starts in a Nationals uniform.
There was June 3 when he lasted only 4 2/3 innings in a loss against the Braves. You had to go back to the opening week and his Nationals debut to see a shorter stint, just 3 2/3 innings in a no-decision April 7 at the Cubs.
But Gonzalez lasted only 3 1/3 against the Mets, a season-low, and allowed a season-high six runs in the 9-5 loss Thursday.
Quite an unusual performance for Gonzalez with the Nationals, and it certainly doesn’t happen very often to the All-Star.
Once or twice a season? Manager Davey Johnson said “one in a hundred” times you’ll see that happen to Gonzalez.
Gonzalez last gave up six or more earned runs Sept. 6, 2011 in Oakland’s 7-4 loss to Kansas City. He hadn’t had a shorter outing in almost two seasons, dating to Sept. 14, 2010, this time at Kansas City when he allowed seven runs in a 11-3 loss to the Royals.
On Thursday, the Mets scored at least a run in each of the first four innings. David Wright set the tone with a two-run blast in the first. Ike Davis added to the quick New York start with a solo shot to lead off the second. Davis added an RBI single the next inning as the Mets raced to a 5-1 lead.
In his 12-4 start to the season, Gonzalez had allowed more than three earned runs in a start just three times until Thursday’s loss.
So what was it?
“I felt a little flat,” Gonzalez admitted. “Nothing was moving too much. They did a great job of attacking me right off the bat. They were swinging aggressively and going right after me. Make better pitches, get better outs.
“You got to learn you are going to hit some patches once and awhile. Leave anything up (and) they are going to make you pay for it. I learned first-hand right by it.”
Johnson saw it from the outset it wasn’t normal Gio.
“It was one of those days where he didn’t have too much command,” Johnson said. “A lot of things weren’t going for him. He has been outstanding.”
So instead of letting Gonzalez labor into the fifth or sixth down more than four runs, he pulled Gonzalez after a walk and a sacrifice in the fourth.
“I am not going to let him get beat up,” Johnson said. “(Craig) Stammen hadn’t pitched in four days, so I figured I could get three or four innings out of him.”
But just like his team, Gonzalez said he will bounce back. He appreciated the attempt at a comeback as he watched the rest of the game unfold on the televisions in the clubhouse.
“You could see the excitement - bases loaded, we had plenty of chances,” Gonzalez said. “We didn’t give in. Every inning, we were fighting and that, to me, is awesome. They didn’t just sit down and take it. They gave them a run for their money every inning.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t do (the) job. But next time, (I’ll) keep fighting, keep going.”