Gonzalez laboring vs. Cubs lineup (Nats lose 4-3)

Last time, it was the first inning that got Gio Gonzalez. This time, the damage has come in the third and fourth innings.

Despite a promising start to his night, Gonzalez has run into trouble the second time around the Cubs lineup, giving up two runs in the top of the third and another in the top of the fourth to leave the Nationals in a 3-1 hole.

It's a frustrating performance thus far for Gonzalez, who gave up three first-inning runs to the White Sox last week but then bounced back with six scoreless frames to salvage the outing. He has managed to keep this one close, but with a pitch count of 78 through four innings, he may not be long for this one.

gonzalez g pitch white tight sidebar.jpgGonzalez's night got off to a promising start, with only 25 pitches needed to get through his first two innings facing the minimum (thanks in part to an overturned call that resulted in a double play for the Nationals).

But then came the top of the third, and with it came some two-out trouble for the left-hander. John Lackey, of all people, got the rally started with a single to right. Dexter Fowler followed with a double to left, leaving two men in scoring position for Jason Heyward, who lined a base hit to right just in front of a charging Bryce Harper.

Harper made a good throw to the plate, but Fowler's slide beat Jose Lobaton's tag, and so the Cubs had themselves a 2-0 lead on Gonzalez, who wound up needing 30 pitches just to complete the third inning.

The Nationals did bounce back to put together something against Lackey in the bottom of the inning, though they still were left unsatisfied with the end result. Despite loading the bases with one out, they pushed across only one run (via Jayson Werth's sacrifice fly).

Daniel Murphy had a chance to do more damage when the bases were loaded again, but the cleanup man's well-struck line drive was hit directly at Heyward in right field to end the inning with the Nationals still trailing 2-1.

The Cubs immediately responded by getting the run back in the top of the fourth, taking advantage of two Gonzalez walks and then David Ross' RBI single up the middle, to expand their lead to 3-1.

Update: The good news: Gonzalez has battled back, retiring the last eight batters he has faced (five via strikeout) to keep the Nats within striking distance. The bad news: The Nats haven't been able to do anything else against Lackey, who has tossed a three-hitter through six innings. It's still 3-1.

Update II: The Nats had a golden opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, with runners on second and third and nobody out. But they could only push across one run, via Ben Revere's sac fly. Reliever Pedro Strop struck out both pinch-hitter Wilson Ramos and Werth to escape with the Cubs' 3-2 lead intact.

Update III: And this game is now tied. Bryce Harper's walk and Ryan Zimmerman's single (snapping an 0-for-20 slump) put the Nats in position in the bottom of the eighth. Anthony Rendon then drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly to right, the Nats' third of the game. It's 3-3 heading to the ninth.

Update IV: But the Nats still wound up losing, 4-3. The Cubs got a run in the top of the ninth off Sammy Solis, who got burned by a leadoff walk and then an RBI double by Albert Almora Jr. The Nats couldn't rally again in the bottom of the inning, so they lose this one and will attempt to win the series tomorrow afternoon.

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