Johnson gives Gonzalez a little bit too much rope (Nationals win 8-4)

All-in-all, allowing four runs in five-plus innings in the 100-degree Atlanta heat isn’t the worst thing in the world.

But when you consider that Gio Gonzalez led 6-1 starting the bottom of the sixth inning, it has to sting a bit that he left the game with just a two-run lead.

After Davey Johnson played things very carefully with Stephen Strasburg in the hot conditions yesterday, it could certainly be argued that he went a bit too long with Gonzalez today.

The Nationals lefty entered the sixth inning having already thrown 98 pitches, which in the heat probably felt like 148. Johnson left Gonzalez in the game to work the sixth, however, and the results weren’t pretty.

Gonzalez issued back-to-back walks to Chipper Jones and Dan Uggla leading off the sixth, which sent pitching coach Steve McCatty to the mound. With Craig Stammen warming in the bullpen, the Nats left Gonzalez on the mound to face Freddie Freeman and on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Freeman crushed a belt-high fastball over the right field fence.

It’s now a 6-4 Nats lead in the seventh.

Johnson is working with a short bullpen given that he needed to get a combined five innings out of Chien-Ming Wang, Tom Gorzelanny and Michael Gonzalez yesterday.

But it sure seemed like with Gonzalez due up in the top of the sixth and his pitch count already high up there in triple-digit temperatures, the Nats skipper could have pinch-hit for his starter and then turned things over to Stammen in the bottom of the sixth.

Update: Fantastic work by the Nationals bullpen and a couple key insurance runs in the ninth got Washington an 8-4 win over the Braves and another series win.

Stammen went two scoreless innings with three strikeouts, Sean Burnett had a clean eighth and Tyler Clippard worked the ninth to finish it out. Clippard didn’t notch a save because the Nats were able to get him a couple extra runs in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by Ryan Zimmerman and a run-scoring groundout off the bat of Tyler Moore.

Zimmerman finished the day going 3-for-5 with a home run, double and a season-high four RBIs. He’s now 14-for-37 with three homers, four doubles and 13 RBIs since receiving a cortisone shot last Sunday.

Oh yeah, and Gonzalez is now 11-3 on the season. No big deal.

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