Gio Gonzalez finally got another win at home, a place where he has been consistently solid. Prior to Thursday, however, a victory had evaded him since July 5 at Nationals Park.
He had gone 0-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his last four home starts and was 0-3 since July 10.
On Thursday, Gonzalez went seven innings and did not allow a run to earn his eighth win in a 9-0 Nationals rout of the Marlins, capping a three-game sweep.
Early on, though, he allowed three walks and a couple of hits. It appeared the Marlins were close to breaking on top with a big inning, but Gonzalez managed to wiggle out of two jams in the first two innings.
After those struggles, Gonzalez got some key advice from what might be an unlikely source. Closer Rafael Soriano had noticed something that concerned him about Gonzalez’s arm slot in those first two frames. He met him at the entry way between the dugout and the clubhouse.
“I think after the second inning I came up here to change my shirt and I had Soriano standing right in the entrance and he was telling me, “Stay back, your arm is dropping way too low and you are trying to rush,’ ” Gonzalez said. “That meant a lot, especially when he is out there watching.”
With the adjustment to his delivery, Gonzalez took off. Then the Nationals offense got rolling for him.
“As soon as I picked that up, after the third inning, it was just like I started getting a groove,” Gonzalez said. “Bam! Two runs came in in the fourth. Then after that, this is the Nats I remember, going out there, swinging the bat, putting up runs on the board. It is nice when they score you nine; it takes a lot of weight off your shoulder.
“We are getting our groove back. You could see it in the vibe and the chemistry in here, it is just getting better and better. I think it’s the music choice. I don’t know what it is.”
Gonzalez said the team effort is a reminder of how they were last season, and what they can do in the future, whether it is to end this season or in 2014.
“Our guys are having more fun up there at the plate,” he said. “We are getting some leadership roles. Some of us, as our rotation, we are trying to go out there and keep our team as much as possible in the game. Today was a proven fact. Bullpen’s going to save you games and starting rotation is just going to keep you in there. But I got to give all the credit to the offense. These guys, whew - it is beautiful to see a game like that.”
Gonzalez believed it started with the offense just exhaling and getting more out of their at-bats. That rubbed off on their defense and the pitching gained confidence.
“We started playing more relaxed,” Gonzalez said. “You could see we were playing more relaxed. I think our lineup is having fun up there. You could see it when they were swinging the bat, base hits, they were all at the top step cheering them on. Our whole team is out there watching the game. You want to be a part of it. That is what we need, have that bounce back excitement.”
It has all been a part of why this team has won 14 of 19 games.