This game could have very easily gotten away from starter Tom Gorzelanny. But Gorzelanny beared down when it mattered most, notching eight strikeouts, most of them in the game’s deciding moments.
Because of his seven innings and only one unearned run allowed, the Nationals were in the game they eventually won in the bottom of the ninth, 2-1, over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park.
The best chance the Pirates had of a big inning occurred in the third when mistakes by Gorzelanny and first baseman Michael Morse got Pittsburgh on the board.
Michael McKenry led off the inning with a single. Charlie Morton bunted in front of the plate that Gorzelanny had trouble fielding and then couldn’t throw accurately to first. The ball went flying toward the first base foul territory and the runner ended up on third.
Alex Presley’s ground out to first scored the run and the Pirates led, 1-0.
Then, Gorzelanny showed his mettle by striking out Chase d’Arnaud. Andrew McCutchen reached first on the first error by Morse since 2005. That allowed Morton to race to third base.
Once again, with his back to the wall and men on first and third, Gorzelanny struck out cleanup hitter Matt Diaz to end the threat.
Gorzelanny, who ended up with a no decision in the quality start, said he did not let himself think about the pair of miscues and the opportunity the Pirates had to get a big lead.
“It is unfortunate,” Gorzelanny said. “You try not to think about it. (If) you do that, you put yourself in trouble. I was just trying to get the next guy to make an out and get us through the inning. I was able to do that.”
He was close to masterful from there. Gorzelanny had tremendous control, walking just one batter, finishing with 95 pitches, 68 of which were strikes. He has now fired 16 strikeouts in his past two starts.
“I had a pretty good slider,” Gorzelanny said. “I was controlling it pretty well. I was on top of that. Everything else was working pretty well. I was able to get ahead early and execute pitches.”
Gorzelanny said the win at Nationals Park was important to begin the long homestand before the break, especially after dropping three straight for the first time since May 30.
Johnson said Gorzelanny has been outstanding his last two outings, especially with his stamina, going seven full innings in each start.
“I want the pitchers to go longer,” Johnson said. “What he did today set the tone for the whole game because I could go with (Tyler) Clippard one inning, he will be ready for tomorrow. Then, I can go (Drew) Storen, he will be ready. Then, I would have had (Sean) Burnett for an inning. We would be ready for a doubleheader tomorrow.”
“Everyone on here is pitching great,” Gorzelanny said. “We are doing everything we can to get deep in the games and limit runs and give us a chance to win. It shows we have been playing well. With the record as we are, a lot of the credit goes to the pitchers.”