Some of the guys in the Nationals' clubhouse knew Gio Gonzalez was pretty darn good when he came aboard via a trade with the Athletics this offseason.
Adam LaRoche, on the other hand, hadn't faced Gonzalez before and didn't know a ton about him, given the two guys played in different leagues. Now that Gonzalez has reached 20 wins and leaves the park today with a 2.84 ERA, LaRoche has a pretty good read on what type of pitcher the lefty is.
"If he was anything like this in Oakland, it's surprising they got rid of him," LaRoche said, "because this guy is electric."
The Nats knew how important the 20-win milestone was to Gonzalez, and they were happy to help him get there.
"Man, it's huge," LaRoche said. "And you guys know Gio. This is a big family to him. He cares about everybody. Fun-loving guy. Bulldog on the mound. Just tough not to root for him. So to go out and get 20, huge milestone for him and this organization. Now go win our division and just add to it."
As for that tumble by Gonzalez in the seventh inning after the starter caught his spike in the mound? How would Ian Desmond grade that?
"Just Gio. A perfect 10," Desmond said. "I'm just glad he didn't mess up his hair."
The Nats were backed by Gonzalez's strong outing, but they laid the lumber today, putting up 10 runs in the first six innings and smacking three home runs.
Two of those homers came off former National Livan Hernandez, who allowed six runs in just two-thirds of an inning. All six of those runs came via the longball, as Ryan Zimmerman and Desmond both crushed three-run shots in the fourth inning.
"We're friends and we'll always be friends," Zimmerman said of Hernandez, who is still beloved by the guys who know him in the Nats' clubhouse. "But he's not my friend when he's pitching and I think he would probably say the same thing about me."
"Livo obviously when he was here was a great teammate," Desmond said. "He took me under his wing and we had a lot of talks about pitching and his philosophies and kind of where his head was at. When I was up there, I was just trying to think along with him. I don't really have that killer instinct, where I like to beat up on my friends. So I don't necessarily feel bad, but it's unfortunate he had to take the hit there."
Manager Davey Johnson suggested that it's a major benefit to play behind a certain pitcher for a while and then face him on another team. You pick up the pitcher's tendencies and as an infielder, especially, you know how his pitches move.
"You know what they're going to throw, because you live it," Johnson said. "And anywhere I ever went and I faced guys I played behind, I wore 'em out. I'm sure Desi knew every sequence that was coming. Slow hook, high fastball, slider. When (Hernandez is) coming in. And I told (Jim) Palmer, 'I know how you pitch. I'm going to wear you out.' The first time I faced him in spring training, I hit one over the light tower in New Orleans.
"That's a great advantage, to play behind a pitcher. And Desi, on the home run he hit, he said I knew he was going away. 'I was looking out there.' That's good hitting. He's in a good spot, by the way."