It looked like Gio Gonzalez was on cruise control.
He’d faced just one over the minimum through the first three innings, had struck out four and was having no trouble pounding the zone with both his fastball and dazzling curve.
Then the Game 1 Gio Gonzalez returned.
We remember that Gio Gonzalez - the one who couldn’t find the strike zone, handed out walks to anyone who was willing to take one and forced the Nationals’ bullpen into action in the early innings.
Staked to a 6-0 lead after three, Gonzalez came out in the fourth inning and looked rattled.
He walked Carlos Beltran leading off the fourth, and then served up an RBI double to Matt Holliday, which allowed the Cardinals to get on the board.
Then, in the fifth, Gonzalez gave up back-to-back hits to Nats killers Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma to open the inning, threw a wild pitch to bring in a run and then walked three of the next five hitters. That brought in two more runs, making it a 6-3 game, and putting the go-ahead run in the batter’s box.
Luckily for Gonzalez, Yadier Molina for some reason decided to take a cut at a 2-0 pitch out of the zone with the bases loaded, and flied out weakly to right to end the inning. Not sure why you take a swing there when Gonzalez has shown no ability to throw the ball over the plate, but the Nationals will take it.
Their offense has suddenly gone silent, while the Cardinals have a spark. We’ll see if the Nats’ bullpen can hold onto this three-run lead with 12 more defensive outs to get.
Craig Stammen is on to work the sixth. The final line for Gonzalez: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 4 BBs, 5 Ks, WP, 99 pitches, 56 strikes.
Update: For the second straight day, Davey Johnson has turned to a starter to serve as the bridge to Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.
Yesterday, it was Jordan Zimmermann working the seventh inning. Tonight, it’s Edwin Jackson.
Johnson had said that Jackson would only come into today’s game if we went into extra innings, but his plans have changed. Instead of going to Ryan Mattheus or Christian Garcia for the seventh, Johnson has turned to Jackson, who allowed four runs over five innings in a Game 3 loss.
It’s still a 6-3 game as Jackson takes the mound. Johnson pushed all the right buttons yesterday, and it’ll be on Jackson to get through the seventh and make his skipper look smart again here today.
Update II: Jackson was shaky in the seventh, walking the leadoff hitter, allowing a run to score and putting the potential go-ahead run in the batter’s box on two occasions.
In the end, he escaped the frame with the Nats still leading 6-4, but this one has gotten a bit tighter as the Cardinals keep chipping away.
Update III: The Cardinals sure aren’t going down quietly.
Descalso hit a solo homer into the Nats’ bullpen leading off the eighth to cut the Nationals’ lead to 6-5.
They once led 6-0. They’ve managed just one hit since that Michael Morse homer in the third. Now the Nats are up just one with the Cardinals set to send Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Molina in the ninth against Drew Storen.
Update IV: Kurt Suzuki delivered a massive insurance run in the eighth, with his two-out RBI single bringing in Adam LaRoche to give the Nats a 7-5 lead.
It’s Drew Storen for the ninth, with a chance to send the Nats to the NLCS.