Today wasn’t what you might consider a typical Gio Gonzalez outing.
In four of his last five starts, Gonzalez had worked into at least the seventh inning, and he’d only failed to go six innings once since the All-Star break. Today, he went just 5 2/3 frames, allowing nine baserunners.
Still, he managed to work out of trouble and give up just a single run, earning his 16th win in the process. He also added a bloop single to right, to the delight of his teammates.
“He was having the ball up all day long,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He was a little wild. But his hitting was better. That’s what I told him. ‘Your hitting is better, but your pitching is going downhill.’ I hadn’t planned on having to go get him in the fifth inning. ... He pitched better later but he was really up most of the day, missing. But the bullpen held in there. It was a good win.”
Gonzalez again is tied for the major league wins lead, and becomes the first pitcher in Nationals history to win 16 games in a season. His outing today was made more difficult by the conditions, as a rain delay of nearly 2 1/2 hours pushed first pitch back to 4:01 p.m.
“I know today he was a little upset,” Johnson said. “He stretched at 12:30 and was ready to go. And then (first pitch) was going to be 3:15. And then it was 4:00. That’s not easy for anybody. You kind of gear up mentally and then you got to shut it down and then you gear up mentally. He held us in there and did all right, but not to his standards.”
Gonzalez got some big-time offensive support from Bryce Harper today, as the rookie outfielder delivered an RBI triple in the third inning and a solo home run off the facade of the second deck in right-center in the fifth.
Harper now has two home runs in his last two starts. Today’s strong performance comes after Johnson sat the 19-year-old yesterday, giving him a day off.
“I think he was trying to send a message to me, ‘Don’t bench me. That’s what you’re missing or something,’ ” Johnson said with a chuckle. “He’s always swinging the bat good. I think sometimes he just gets a little (frustrated) and over-aggressive.”
Harper might be coming out of a lengthy slump - in his last two starts, he’s 4-for-7 with three extra-base hits and four RBIs. Ian Desmond has found himself in a little bit of a cold streak since coming off the DL on Friday, however. The shortstop is 0-for-11 the last three days.
“He’s a little aggressive like he was early, starting the year,” Johnson said. “He’s so dang strong, he wants to jump on just about anything and he can hit just about any pitch. But he told me after about two at-bats, ‘OK, the rehab is over, I’m ready.’
“He’ll be fine. I think he’s swinging all right. He just missed a couple balls today.”
Johnson had planned to give Desmond the day off today, but those plans changed. Desmond told Johnson he wanted to face Mets righty Jeremy Hefner today, so Johnson left him in the lineup.
After getting shut out yesterday, it was nice for the Nats to put up five runs and four extra-base hits going into a three-game set with the Braves.
“Offensively we really haven’t had that lineup in there but two or three days,” Johnson said. “I think it’ll start feeding of itself. Jayson (Werth) has been doing great leading off. Two guys like Harper, one, two, before the middle of the lineup. It’s not easy to match up with.”