The long layoff didn’t seem to bother left-hander Gio Gonzalez on Monday night. With all the rainouts the last week, he was the only starter who got to pitch on a weekday. He pitched five-plus innings in the rain-shortened 3-3 tie with the Yankees a week ago today.
Fast forward six days. Gonzalez displayed very little rust early with a 1-2-3 first inning on his way to seven strong innings against San Diego in a 10-2 rout.
Gonzalez was in such a groove on the mound, in fact - he allowed only two hits all night - that postgame he was more concerned about critiquing his hitting than analyzing his pitching performance.
“Working on little things, just trying to adjust to certain things. I got to stop trying to swing so damn hard. I got to realize that I’m not a hitter. I was just happy I got the two bunts down. Even the second at-bat surprised everyone. I surprised myself. It was exciting to see that.
“Then again, it was just one of those games. It was good to turn it around and get something positive out of it.”
Gonzalez surrendered a two-run shot to Franmil Reyes in the fourth, but the Padres got little else. He fired 111 pitches, 68 for strikes to improve to 5-2 with five strikeouts and three walks.
The win was big for the Nats after they were swept by the Dodgers, but could be even bigger because Gonzalez was able to go seven full innings and not labor through tough innings. The back of their bullpen was untouched.
It was a night when Gonzalez didn’t have to talk pitching because the spotlight shone on a 19-year-old. Juan Soto made his presence felt, in only his second big league at-bat, with a dramatic, first-pitch, three-run homer.
“Oh, that was awesome,” Gonzalez said. “You could put him right there on the top of the list of people who did a great job today. It was just fun to see him go out there. Well deserved. That’s what you wanted to see in his first at-bat. We can replace the at-bat before that, put that one there. It was nice to see him do that. The smile, the joy out of his face.
“It’s what baseball is all about. Just being so young and enjoying the moment. 19 years old, I don’t even know where I was at 19, just getting to high-A or something like that. It’s unbelievable. That’s a pretty cool story.”