For G. Gonzalez, a dominant first five hitters, then a shaky finish (Nats lose 7-4)

NATIONALS QUICK WRAP

Score: Astros 7, Nationals 4

Recap: Rafael Soriano allowed five runs in just 2/3 of an inning of work, as the Astros broke the game open in the sixth.

Need to know: Gio Gonzalez allowed two runs over two up-and-down innings, Blake Treinen threw three scoreless and Tyler Clippard allowed two hits in his inning of work, but also struck out the side.

On deck: Tuesday, home vs. Yankees, 1:05 p.m., on MASN


VIERA, Fla. - Gio Gonzalez's second outing of spring couldn't have started any better. He struck out the first five Astros hitters he saw, mixing his pitches nicely and breezing through the Houston lineup.

Then he seemed to hit a wall.

After the five strikeouts, Gonzalez allowed the next five Astros hitters to reach base. He gave up an infield single to George Springer (which bounced off Gonzalez's glove), surrendered a two-run homer to Carlos Corporan to deep right-center, walked L.J. Hoes, allowed a double to right off the bat of Gregorio Petit and then hit Dexter Fowler with a pitch.

That finally drew a visit from pitching coach Steve McCatty, and Gonzalez responded by getting Jonathan Villar to fly out to center to finally end the inning.

It was a bizarre and sudden decline in effectiveness, and one that led to Gonzalez being pulled after just the two innings of work.

He threw 46 pitches tonight, 31 for strikes.

He looked incredible early on, getting Fowler swinging at a curveball, and then freezing Villar and Jesus Guzman on fastballs. He got Chris Carter swinging at what I think was a changeup to open the second inning, then added another looking strikeout when a curve locked up Matt Dominguez.

You could argue that the second inning would have been over without incident had Gonzalez just pulled in Springer's high tapper back to the mound, but he's got to find a way to refocus after that and get out of the inning.

Right-hander Blake Treinen came in to replace Gonzalez in the third inning.

It's 2-1 Astros in the third. The lone Nationals run came in the first inning, when Denard Span doubled over the third base bag to open the inning, then came in after back-to-back groundouts to second.

Bryce Harper's roller to Petit brought in Span from third.

Update: The Astros have taken a 7-1 lead in the sixth after putting up five runs on Rafael Soriano, whose second outing of spring didn't last a full inning.

Soriano faced eight batters and got just two outs. His line: 2/3 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 2 Ks, 1 HBP.

It's just spring training and numbers don't mean much, but Soriano's stats lines through his two appearances so far have not been too impressive.

Treinen, meanwhile, threw three sharp, scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks, but striking out three. Each of his last two outings have been solid ones.

Gonzalez spoke with reporters about his start minutes ago, and looked at the Springer infield hit as the turning point in his outing.

"That's what got them going," Gonzalez said. "It was one of those pitches where you throw the pitch right where you wanted, it just bounced over your head, and the next thing, you're pitching from the stretch. I think it's one of those things you learn from. That's what spring training's all about.

"Once they saw that I was being more aggressive, they were being more aggressive, too. They were seeing I was more in the zone, and I guess they were trying to put the ball in play after that."

Gonzalez liked the way his curveball felt tonight overall, with the exception of the one that drilled Fowler in the leg.

"It felt great, just one pitch that got away, just stuck with a little bit longer," Gonzalez said. "The one I hit Dexter Fowler with, I feel awful about it, but it's something I'm working on. Just held on a little too long."

Overall, however, Gonzalez walks away pleased with the outing, despite the way the second inning went.

"Arm feels 100 percent great," he said. "I think that's the most important part. I felt like I was attacking the strike zone. I felt like I was being aggressive, and when the season starts, obviously there will be a point when you get to work on certain things and setting up hitters and doing stuff the right way."

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