You might not know it by looking at his pitching line - or his batting line, for that matter - but Gio Gonzalez was battling a pretty bad headache during his 2013 regular season debut tonight.
Gonzalez started feeling the headache prior to first pitch and relied on consistent massages on his temple from trainer John Hsu and some Advil in order to get through his six shutout innings in the Nationals’ 3-0 win.
“Every inning, all the way to the fifth, where it was constantly getting massaged and massaged,” Gonzalez said. “It started from the bullpen and it ended up being right off the first batter. I was just working my way through there. I was just trying to stay focused and let the Advil take over and do what it does.”
Gonzalez apparently didn’t have any problem seeing the ball when standing in the batter’s box. He crushed a first-pitch curveball from Kevin Slowey into the left field seats in the fifth inning, breaking a scoreless tie and giving the Nats the lead.
“Lucky swing. Just one of those lucky things,” Gonzalez said, humble as ever. “I don’t want guys getting the wrong ideas now that I can hit. Just one of those things. Trying to get in there and let the rest of the guys go out there and swing the bat. I just wanted to get on base and do something. I didn’t expect that.”
One of the biggest outs in the game came when Gonzalez struck out Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the sixth inning, leaving the then-tying runner in scoring position. It was the second time Gonzalez struck out Stanton tonight, both times with a curveball.
“It’s definitely a huge thing, especially with a bopper like that,” Gonzalez said. “You don’t want that guy to change the game on you. One of those things where you just try to pitch him carefully and try not to give him something he wants.”
After a hitless opener, in which he struck out in all three at-bats, Ryan Zimmerman went 2-for-4 tonight with a triple down the right field line in the sixth inning and a hard-hit RBI single up the middle in the eighth that brought in Bryce Harper with a key insurance run.
Asked if he’d ever tripled for his first hit of the season before, Zimmerman went into the memory bank, and remarkably came up with something.
“I have. Dontrelle Willis,” Zimmerman said. “I remember it, on opening day (in 2007). For a guy that never hits triples, I’ve had I think two or three for my first hit of the season. Looking down there, it was bouncing around, so I had to go, as much as I didn’t want to.”
Denard Span had four successful plate appearances tonight, walking twice, doubling to right and scoring a run on a fielder’s choice in the seventh. Span was teammates with Slowey in Minnesota, so he wasn’t too surprised by what the right-hander was bringing to the plate tonight.
“I kind of knew what he was featuring,” Span said. “I was just able to put together some good at-bats and get on base.”
The Nationals haven’t done much offensively through two games, with three solo home runs accounting for 60 percent of their runs and 27 percent of their hits. But two games is far too few for anyone to be concerned.
“We’re doing what it takes to win ballgames,” Span said. “I mean, the first two games. But thank God for our pitching who gave us a chance to win, and I’m pretty sure we’ll get it going offensively.”