It had been 51 days since Gio Gonzalez last picked up a win.
Fifty-one days, despite an eight-start stretch in which Gonzalez pitched to a 2.15 ERA and held opponents to a .174 batting average and .532 OPS.
That can happen when your offense is ineffective and your team has a number of key position players dealing with injuries.
Last night, Gonzalez’s lengthy winless streak finally was snapped in a 7-5 Nationals win.
Of course, as Davey Johnson pointed out to reporters after the game, nothing can ever be easy for this team. A 6-0 Nats lead shrunk over the final few innings, with the Diamondbacks pulling within two runs in the eighth and then bringing the potential go-ahead run to the plate against Rafael Soriano in the ninth.
Gonzalez allowed two runs, Drew Storen gave up an unearned run, Tyler Clippard served up a solo homer to Nationals-killer Martin Prado and Soriano made things interesting in the ninth, surrendering three hits and a run.
But the Nats were able to hang on, picking up a win over the National League West leaders to get back to .500.
Despite being without Bryce Harper (who went 1-for-1 with a bloop double, a walk and a run scored in his first rehab appearance with high Single-A Potomac last night), Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos, and having a banged-up Jayson Werth in the lineup, the Nats were able to pound out seven runs on 11 hits.
The top four hitters in the Nationals’ lineup - Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, Werth and Adam LaRoche - went a combined 8-for-16 with five RBIs and five runs scored. The Nats could use efforts from that group more often.
LaRoche delivered the big blast - a three-run homer in the third inning that barely cleared the left-center field wall. Does that ball leave the yard a month ago when the temperature is 25 degrees cooler and the ball isn’t carrying nearly as much? Maybe not. But the Nats’ offense was able to heat up in the hot weather last season, and they would love to see more of that this time around, as well.
One quick thought on Rendon: Is there anyone else on this team right now that offers as consistent a gap-to-gap approach at the plate as the rookie infielder?
Rendon can turn on a ball with the best of them, and he certainly offers the ability to get out in front, pull a pitch down the left field line and do some damage. But the 23-year-old uses the whole field and has great pop to the opposite field, especially for someone who has minimal major league experience.
As you can see by looking at Rendon’s spray chart, he pulls the vast majority of balls that are hit on the ground. But look at where the line drives and fly balls off Rendon’s bat go. He utilizes the whole field and has shown impressive power to the gap in right-center.
If you click the “hit result” tab on the left side of the page on Rendon’s spray chart, you can see that at least two-thirds of Rendon’s hits have been to the right side of center field, an indication that he’s keeping his hands inside the ball, letting it travel deep in the zone and hitting it hard where it’s pitched.
Meanwhile, Christian Garcia pitched a scoreless inning for Triple-A Syracuse last night, striking out two and allowing one hit. It was Garcia’s first appearance in two weeks. The right-hander, who is on a rehab assignment as he works back from a torn tendon in his right forearm, had been shut down for a brief period after feeling some shoulder soreness.
A quick note: I’m back at jury duty today, but hope to be out in time to make it down to Nats Park this afternoon/evening. If I can’t make it down in time for pregame coverage, Byron Kerr will have you covered here on MASNsports.com.