There have been a host of times over the last seven weeks where Gio Gonzalez has gone out, pitched a gem and been stuck with a tough-luck loss or a no-decision.
In tonight’s 8-5 Nationals win, Gonzalez threw 50 pitches in the first two innings, allowed eight runners to reach base in the first four frames and still got the win.
Baseball can be a funky game sometimes.
Gonzalez was able to minimize the damage early on, allowing just a run in the first and a run in the third, and then pitched pretty well in his later innings. He ended up going 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits.
“Well Gio hung it together, but the first couple innings were ... I was hoping I could get five out of him after the first couple,” Johnson said. “But he pitched good. And beared down. Threw a lot of pitches early, though.”
In the first inning of ballgames this season, Gonzalez has a 5.50 ERA. After that, it’s 2.59. What leads to the dramatic shift?
“Goes to the command on his fastball,” Johnson said. “When he has command on his fastball and goes right after them and pitches out front, it sets a tone for the whole game. But he’s behind in counts, having to throw it right down the middle and he can get hurt. It’s all in the command. And then after he threw 50 pitches, I guess, he started getting ahead. But good win.”
The Nats got a bit of a scare in the second when Gonzalez was drilled by an Andrew Cashner pitch when Gonzalez was squaring to bunt. Where’d the ball get him?
“Right here in the Iron Man chest,” Gonzalez said with a smile. “I hit the ball further with my chest than my bat.”
Cashner went up to Gonzalez right after the hit by pitch and apologized, and Gonzalez was able to laugh about it all seconds later.
“It was funny because (first baseman Jesus) Guzman was saying, ‘How’s the chest?’ ” Gonzalez said. “And I flexed to him and was like, ‘This is the Iron Man chest, man. Man of steel right there, you can’t damage that.’ When he turned his back, I kind of hunched over and went, ‘Ooh.’ It was one of those things you laugh about and again, you could tell he didn’t do it on purpose.”
Gonzalez got plenty of run support tonight. Jayson Werth went 3-for-4 with an RBI, Denard Span had two hits and two RBIs, and Wilson Ramos drove in three more runs a night after putting up five RBIs in his first game back off the DL.
“I like the way the lineup is swinging the bat, really,” Johnson said. “They’re good at-bats, quality at-bats. That’s what I’ve been looking for. That takes pressure off everybody in the lineup. They feel like they can stay within themselves and not try to do too much.
“I like the energy (Ian Desmond) brings (in the No. 2 spot), and Jayson seems to relish where he’s hitting, too.”
Ramos had another big day, delivering a two-run single in the second and another RBI knock in the fourth. He’s now 5-for-8 with eight RBIs the last two games.
“I feel comfortable,” Ramos said. “I feel excited when everyone claps their hands and says my name. It made me feel confident at the plate. Those two games made me feel confident, made me feel happy. Tomorrow I will rest, but I will be ready on the bench if they need me.
“I felt comfortable at the plate right now. Same approach tonight, same approach last night, too, just get a good pitch to hit. Happy right now because I’m back and we won.”