Gio gets some rope, works out of a jam (Nats win 5-1)

PHILADELPHIA - Davey Johnson jokingly has given himself the nickname “Captain Hook” because he tends to err on the side of caution with his starting pitchers.

The Nationals’ skipper tends to have a fairly quick hook with his younger starters, and rarely sends them out for that extra inning in the middle or late innings, in an effort to have their start end on a positive note and leave them with a shot at a win.

But this season, we’ve seen Johnson give the starters at the top of his rotation - Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann - some more rope late in games and in key spots.

Strasburg is being allowed to work into the seventh and eighth innings. Zimmermann has three complete games on the year. And tonight, with Gonzalez’s pitch count above 110, Johnson let his left-hander stay in the game with the tying run at the plate and two outs in the seventh inning.

Yes, Ben Revere hits left-handed, so leaving in the left-handed Gonzalez to face the Phillies’ leadoff hitter makes sense from a matchup standpoint. But Johnson also had faith that his starter would be able to put the breaks on a Phillies rally and keep the Nats in front, and Gonzalez came through.

With the Nats’ lead having been cut to 4-1 on a Darin Ruf two-out homer, and with Carlos Ruiz and Kevin Frandsen each having singled in front of Revere, Gonzalez induced a fly out to left to end the inning and keep the Nats up three.

Gonzalez will now turn this over to the bullpen. Here’s his final line: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 117 pitches, 74 strikes.

Another strong outing from Gonzalez, whose ERA is now down to 3.03, the lowest it’s been since an April 14 start against the Braves.

Tyler Clippard comes in to work the eighth with the Nats leading 4-1.

Update: That’ll do it. The Nats rode their four solo home runs and Gonzalez’s seven strong innings to a 5-1 win, snapping a two-game skid and getting them back to three games over .500.

Anthony Rendon, Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth all homered and had two hits, and Clippard and Rafael Soriano each worked a scoreless frame to close things out.

The Braves lost earlier today, so the division deficit is back down to five.

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