Hearing from Gonzalez after his three strong innings (Nats lose 4-2)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Drew Storen pitched a scoreless inning for the Nationals, allowing an infield single and a base knock to left but striking out two in the seventh.

The Nationals then knotted the score at 2-2 in the eighth on Michael Taylor’s two-run single to center, but Ryan Mattheus surrendered two runs in the bottom half of the inning, putting the Astros back up 4-2.

We’re going to the ninth here in Kissimmee.

Gio Gonzalez barely utilized his off-speed pitches his last time out, with winds in excess of 20 mph in Jupiter forcing him to throw almost entirely fastballs in his outing against the Cardinals.

This time around, in his final start before leaving the Nationals to join Team USA in the second round of the World Baseball Classic (assuming the American team gets there), Gonzalez got more of a chance to focus on his curveball and change-up.

With temperatures in the upper 60s and little to no wind at Osceola County Stadium, Gonzalez worked three scoreless innings against the Astros, allowing three hits and a walk. He recorded three strikeouts, including one of former Nats outfielder Justin Maxwell, which came on a nasty curve.

“This time I was throwing the curveball, throwing the change-up, which was landing for strikes, which is what I wanted,” Gonzalez said. “Try to get all three pitches in effect, especially coming up now for the Classic.”

Gonzalez was on a tight leash today. Manager Davey Johnson knew he was holding his left-hander to under 50 pitches today because of WBC pitch limits, so when Gonzalez finished his third inning having thrown 42 pitches, Johnson went to his ‘pen.

Gonzalez threw 23 more pitches in the bullpen once he was out of the game, getting him to 65 pitches on the day.

“I felt good,” Gonzalez said. “Three innings, still working on stuff. I felt I was building more strength as the innings went along, finally picking up my target. Finished off in the bullpen, trying to still get that groove again. But other than that, I felt good.”

Assuming Team USA isn’t bounced from the WBC in the first round, Gonzalez will leave Sunday and head to Miami to meet up with Ross Detwiler and the test of the American squad. He’ll then start for Team USA on Tuesday.

“I’m excited,” Gonzalez said. “I can’t wait to join up with the team in Miami and just have some fun. Hopefully I can bring something to the table where we keep it nice and loose over there.”

Update: It’s a final: Astros 4, Nationals 2.

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