CHICAGO - If you didn't watch last night's game and merely glanced at Gio Gonzalez's pitching line - 7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 116 pitches - after the fact, you most likely would emerge with positive emotions.
The end result may have been fine, but the process that got Gonzalez there was a bit less satisfying, certainly for the left-hander, who gave up all three of his runs in the first inning before flipping a switch and dominating the rest of the way.
"I've got to get on the ball right off the bat," he said. "That first inning, that's how it goes sometimes. That's why you have to be aggressive right out of the chute. Just one inning too late."
Had his Nationals teammates managed more than one hit and five baserunners against White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez and three relievers, Gio Gonzalez might well have wound up with a W next to his name. Instead, he got tagged with a 3-1 loss.
The first inning hadn't been a problem for Gonzalez in quite some time; he hadn't allowed a run in the opening frame in his last 31 starts, dating back more than a calendar year.
But he got himself in trouble this time by issuing back-to-back, one-out walks to Austin Jackson and Jose Abreu. Then Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie lined back-to-back doubles, and just like that Gonzalez found himself in an early 3-0 hole.
"Was I expecting that? No, I was just trying to pitch to what we had on them," Gonzalez said. "And sometimes that's just how the game goes. They put some runs together and it stayed like that."
Gonzalez, who at times in the past has struggled to right his ship once it begins to veer wayward, did find a way to get it all back under control this time. After Lawrie's double, he proceeded to retire 11 batters in a row, five via strikeout.
"He did bounce back, big time," manager Dusty Baker said. "He buckled down and kept us in the ballgame, gave us a chance to win."
Gonzalez turned his night around so impressively, Baker let him take the mound for the bottom of the seventh with his pitch count already at 104.
"He was throwing the ball good," the manager said. "He was more determined. ... He didn't really have any stressful innings other than that first inning."
The damage in that first inning proved enough to doom Gonzalez, and that still irked him after the game. But he also was able to take solace in the manner in which he transformed what could have been a disastrous night into a quality performance in the end.
"You know what, that's it," the lefty said he told himself after the first inning. "The switch was turned back on. And I felt good after that."