Nats settle for series split after another shaky Gonzalez start

What was shaping up to be an impressive weekend to start the Nationals' first West Coast trip of the season instead ended on a sour note, with back-to-back losses in San Diego resulting in a four-game split at Petco Park.

Another shaky start by Gio Gonzalez this afternoon turned into a 6-3 loss to the Padres, the Nationals' second straight after two strong wins to begin the long weekend series.

Gonzalez gave up six runs (five earned) over 5 1/3 innings that got progressively laborious as his afternoon progressed. The left-hander put 14 men on base, including four via walk and two via plunking, watching his pitch count soar along the way.

Gonzalez-Frustrated-Red-Sidebar.jpgGonzalez has now lost five of his last six starts during a stretch that has seen his ERA skyrocket from 1.86 to 4.25.

"It's consistency, and he couldn't locate especially with two outs after they got some runners in scoring position," manager Dusty Baker told reporters in San Diego after the game. "I didn't see where those pitches were, but they were about belt-high, and you don't have to manipulate the bat to get on that same plane of the ball. It's about keeping the ball down, sinking it, popping at the four-seamer and just pitching. It seems that we can't stay out of that one inning. We just continue to work."

The veteran lefty had opportunities to limit the damage today, but his lack of command proved his undoing, as did his throwing error on a tapper in front of the plate. That opened the floodgates for a two-run fifth inning by the Padres, who took the lead for good in that frame.

The Nationals scored three runs early off Drew Pomeranz, all coming on solo homers (two by Michael A. Taylor, one by Danny Espinosa). But they put only five other men on base all afternoon and had only three at-bats with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-3 in those situations.

Taylor enjoyed a 4-for-4 day, adding a double and a single to his pair of homers, giving him 11 total bases in the game. But his teammates struck out 13 times while drawing only one walk in the first of four consecutive games they're scheduled to play against left-handed starters.

This weekend's series against the last-place Padres was supposed to be a less-stressful precursor to the upcoming three-game series against the Dodgers, who send ace Clayton Kershaw to the mound Monday night against Stephen Strasburg. But after back-to-back wins Thursday and Friday night that included 15 total runs, the Nationals lineup went mostly silent over the weekend, totaling six runs in the final two games of the series.

"They outplayed us," Baker said. "They outplayed us the last two days. I'm not real happy about it. But we've just got to play better in L.A. Because we were playing great when we got out here. We went backwards a couple days. So we've got to get it back together."

Marquee pitching matchup tonight at Dodger Stadium
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