Gonzalez battling himself this time out (Nats take the lead)

Gio Gonzalez threw 91 pitches over six shutout innings in his season debut last week, but he seems like a different guy tonight.

It’s taken the Nationals left-hander 84 pitches to get through four innings against the White Sox, as he’s walked two, allowed three hits and had trouble putting Chicago hitters away.

Gonzalez needed 33 pitches just to get through the top of the first, and his mental miscue brought in the first run of the ballgame.

With the bases loaded and a 3-2 count on Alexei Ramirez with two outs, Gonzalez started to go into his windup only to change his mind and decide he wanted to step off the mound. He did so with the wrong foot, however, and home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi jumped out from behind the dish to correctly call a balk.

That brought in Jeff Keppinger from third, putting the White Sox on top. Gonzalez responded to get out of the inning without any further damage, but the high pitch count will knock him from this ballgame earlier than he’d like.

Meanwhile, the Nationals and Sox are locked in a 1-1 tie after Ryan Zimmerman plated Denard Span with the Nats’ first run in the fourth.

Span singled to lead off the inning, then went first-to-third on Bryce Harper’s single to right.

Zimmerman came through with some nice situational hitting, driving a ball to right that was deep enough to get Span in to tie the game.

This one, like the three in Cincinnati, hasn’t been that pretty. But it’s all tied after four.

Update: But it’s not tied after five.

Ian Desmond crushed a solo homer off the back wall of the visitor’s bullpen in left leading off the fifth inning, giving the Nats a 2-1 lead and putting Gonzalez in line for the win.

It’s Desmond’s second homer of the season.

Gonzalez is almost certainly done after five frames, having thrown 99 pitches. Craig Stammen is warming in the Nats’ bullpen, ready to take over for the sixth.

Update II: Gonzalez is indeed done. His line isn’t as bad as one might think, given his elevated pitch count.

Here it is: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 Ks and a balk. Gonzalez didn’t have his best stuff, but he kept the Nats in it.

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