As he warmed up with Gio Gonzalez, the moment felt a little weird to Kurt Suzuki. They were back together after four years as a battery in Oakland, reunited after the Nationals traded for Gonzalez in December and Suzuki this weekend. Soon, the oddity faded into familiarity.
“Once we kind of got in the flow a little bit, it was comfortable,” Suzuki said. “It was a nice feeling catching somebody I was familiar with. Same old Gio.”
In their first game together with the Nationals, Gonzalez did something he had never done before. He fired a nine-inning complete game as the Nationals beat the Astros, 4-3. He and Suzuki settled into their old rhythm, like nothing had changed expect their location.
“As soon as we went in the bullpen, we were on the same page,” Gonzalez said. “It was one of those situations where nothing changed. It just feels like we’re wearing different uniforms. That’s all it is.”
Suzuki noticed a few new developments in his old teammate. Gonzalez, he said, had “a lot better command and composure on the mound. … He just does the same thing. For me, he’s a lot more consistent with his fastball. He’s still got that special arm and that special curveball. They’re all there.”
The more consistent fastball has helped Gonzalez lower his walk rate from 4.1 per nine innings in 2010 and 2011 to 3.5 this year. The additional composure is something Gonzalez said has been a focus for him this year. And last night, it helped him finish off his complete game.
“There were a lot of times when he went into those later innings before, he would just get so amped up and try to do too much,” Suzuki said. “I just tried to make sure he was calm and just focused on getting strikes and hitting my target and stuff like that, not trying to think, ‘I need to get this guy out.’ ”
Gonzalez and Suzuki kept the same signs they used in Oakland, which included one touch unseen before in Washington. With a runner on second base, Suzuki tapped his body like a third base coach to call for pitches rather than sticking down fingers.
“We actually went back to the signs that we had used previously. He just said, ‘Hey, let’s just use the signs we used to use,’ and I was like, ‘All right.’ ” It was kind of easy that way.”
FROM THE POST
Gio Gonzalez saved the bullpen and homered in the Nationals’ 4-3 victory over the Astros.
Dan Steinberg writes that fans are starting to believe this is the Nationals’ year.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 10, Pawtucket 2: John Lannan allowed two runs in eight innings on five hits and a walk, striking out nine. Corey Brown went 3 for 6 with a double. Sandy Leon went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk. Jarrett Hoffpauir went 1 for 3 with a home run and three walks.
Richmond 6, Harrisburg 0: The Senators went one hit and did not get their only hit until Jose Lozada’s double in the eighth. Brian Goodwin went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
Myrtle Beach 9, Potomac 2: Nathan Karns allowed three earned runs in two innings on five hits and three walks, striking out three. Francisco Soriano went 2 for 3 with two doubles and a walk.
Hagerstown 6, Charleston 0: Matt Skole went 3 for 5 with two homers and 27 homers on the season. Billy Burns went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk. Taylor Hill allowed no runs in six innings on eight hits and two walks, striking out one.
Jamestown 10, Auburn 6: Wander Ramos went 3 for 5 with two doubles. Nicholas Lee allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings on nine hits and no walks, striking out four.