Gonzalez failed to make adjustments in shortest outing of season

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Left-hander Gio Gonzalez has made starts where he was off a bit.

But Monday night at Tropicana Field, Gonzalez was unable to get into any kind of a rhythm. It got so bad for the southpaw that he faced seven batters in the second inning without recording an out.

After walking one batter in the first, he still was able to get out of the frame by inducing flyout and getting former teammate Wilson Ramos on a called third strike.

But in the second, the Rays C.J. Cron started it all with a walk. Jake Bauers then doubled. That's when the real trouble started for Gonzalez. A wild pitch scored a run. He walked the next three hitters.

Kevin Kiermaier then crushed a grand slam over the center field wall to give the Rays a 6-0 lead and Tampa Bay cruised to an 11-0 victory over the Nationals.

After seven batters, Gonzalez was lifted.

Gonzalez-Front-Gray-Sidebar.jpgManager Davey Martinez noticed Gonzalez was hurrying his pitches. Martinez told catcher Pedro Severino to try and slow Gonzalez down, but it didn't work.

"He got really quick we started noticing," Martinez said. "I tried to get Sevy to tell him to calm down and relax, but as you guys know with Gio, once his mind goes, he just wants to go, and he couldn't get it together."

Gonzalez has now allowed four or more runs in three of his last four starts. He has lost three of those four starts. Martinez senses a difference in Gonzalez's mechanics in these recent outings.

"I told him, earlier in the season, he was under control, he was using his legs a little better, he wasn't thinking as much and he was attacking the strike zone," Martinez said. "It seems like his last couple outings, that's gone by the wayside. We have to get him back in that bullpen to find out how to try to calm him down and slow down."

The one inning plus seven batters was the shortest outing in his 15 starts this season. His previous shortest regular season outing with the Nats was on Aug. 15, 2015, against the Giants in a 12-6 loss, when he lasted 2 2/3 innings. His shortest previous start was Sept. 14, 2010, with the A's in 14-9 loss to the Royals when he went two innings.

Severino said the Rays were putting the bat on a lot of the stuff Gonzalez normally uses to fool hitters. That caused a backlog of pitches and Gonzalez's pitch efficiency diminished.

"I just felt like their hitters were ready," Severino said through interpreter Octavio Martinez. "Gio was making some good quality pitches with the curveball and the changeup, even the fastball, his location. And the hitters were taking real close pitches. They were spitting on it basically and making good adjustments.

"It seemed like the hitters had a good game plan for what Gio was trying to do out there and they were making the good adjustments. All we can do is try to adjust with them and have a little bit of better plan in terms of adjusting with the hitters, we were unable to do today."

Gonzalez said: "Just wasn't my night. Pretty much that was it. Couldn't get a strike."

He lamented the position he put his bullpen in, having to make up eight innings of outs. He normally expects to go six or seven innings each start, a feat he has pulled off seven times this season.

"The unfortunate part is always taxing the bullpen," Gonzalez said. "That sucks as a starter. Definitely one of those things you hold your head as much as you can, but you hold it a little heavier weight on yourself when you know the bullpen has to carry so much load. That's the unfortunate thing.

"If I would have gone six innings and allowed six runs, I could live with that. When you get that kind of stuff and it tacks on eight innings on a bullpen that really does not need that stress right now, that's the part for me that kills me the most."

Gonzalez said it was not a physical issue or fatigue that sent in, saying 'I'm perfectly fine." Davey Martinez echoed those thoughts, saying his southpaw is not injured: "Health-wise, he's fine."

Justin Miller, Tim Collins and Matt Grace combined for seven innings, allowing five runs on nine hits. With a noon start Tuesday and several games last week that labored the bullpen, Martinez needs Max Scherzer to come up big with one of his signature deep performances.

And on the opposite side, left-hander Blake Snell (10-4) carried a no-hitter through six innings. Anthony Rendon led off the seventh with a double to break up the bid. But Snell allowed just that one hit over seven frames, striking out 10 and walking four for the win.

"He's one of the best lefties in the league and he showed it today," Severino said. "He was mixing up his pitches real well. Curveball down, changeup away, with his fastball. He was keeping his pitches down in the zone. Hopefully next time we are able to make better adjustments as the game goes on. He was on today and he showed why he is one of the better pitchers in the league."

Ramos slammed two homers against his former team. Juan Soto had the other hit for the Nationals.

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