ATLANTA - For a guy who'd allowed just one earned run over his last 22 innings coming into tonight, Gio Gonzalez sure is having a tough time getting outs.
Gonzalez has thrown 83 pitches through three innings so far tonight, as Braves hitters have battled him deep into counts, fouling off pitches and laying off the stuff just off the black.
The Nationals' lefty has gotten to a three-ball count to eight of the 15 hitters he's faced, and has had at-bats last 10, nine, eight, eight and seven pitches.
Somehow, he trails just 2-0 after three innings, as the Braves have been unable to take major advantage of Gonzalez's ability to put them away once he gets up in the count.
It was a strange sight, however, to see Craig Stammen warming up in the Nationals' bullpen with one out in the third inning.
Stammen hasn't gotten much work lately, but the Nationals would obviously love Gonzalez to settle down and give them a few more innings.
He's worked just five and 4 2/3 innings the last two times that he's faced the Braves, so Gonzalez hasn't been able to work very deep against Atlanta lately.
Barring a couple super-quick innings, he might not get past the five-inning point yet again tonight.
Update: Gonzalez was able to put things together and get through the fourth and fifth innings on a total of 20 pitches, but things deteriorated after he came out for the bottom of the sixth.
The lefty allowed a walk and a double to the first two Braves hitters in the sixth, forcing manager Davey Johnson to go to his 'pen. Craig Stammen came on and pulled a magic act, getting out of the jam without allowing a run.
He stranded both Braves runners in scoring position and kept it a 2-1 Braves lead.
The Nats got their run in the top of the sixth when Bryce Harper doubled leading off the inning and then came around on Ian Desmond's RBI single. That was the Nats' first run in their last 13 innings.
It might feel like a 8-1 Braves lead, but the Nats are very much in this as we go to the seventh.
Update II: Three more Atlanta runs, two of which were unearned, have the Nationals six outs from being on the losing end of a three-game sweep.
The Braves have a 5-1 lead after seven thanks to some shaky Nats defense and a timely basehit by Dan Uggla which plated two runs.
Craig Stammen and Sean Burnett combined to walk two hitters and hit a batter in the seventh, and a Ryan Zimmerman fielding error didn't help matters, either. The Braves brought in three insurance runs, and have a comfortable four-run cushion going to the final frames.
Update III: That'll do it. The Nats were swept by the Braves, with tonight's 5-1 loss capping off a disappointing weekend in Atlanta.
The Nationals scored just one run over their final 16 innings against the Braves, gave the Braves easy runs and were pushed around over this three-game set.
What was an 8 1/2 game lead in the NL East coming into the series is back down to 5 1/2 with 16 games remaining on the Nationals' schedule.