Gio Gonzalez helps deliver a comeback victory after rocky start

brushback_harperAfter two batters last night, Gio Gonzalez wanted to hit restart. “I wish that could be the case, you could do a do-over,” Gonzalez said. But he could not, and after nine pitches, he was trailing, 2-0. Ben Revere singled, and Michael Young deposited the fastball Gonzalez left over the plate over the left field fence.

After the inning, catcher Kurt Suzuki wanted Gonzalez to remember the Nationals still had ample opportunity to come back, that Gonzalez merely needed to keep them in the game. He told him, “That’s all they get.”

“We didn’t mean that’s all the hits they get,” Suzuki said afterward. “But that’s kind of how he took it, I guess.”

Gonzalez followed his nightmare start with seven innings of mastery. He did not allow the Phillies another hit, retiring 21 of the last 23 batters he faced, striking out 11 of them. The heroics of Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond overshadowed him in the end, but it would not have been possible without Gonzalez’s latest excellent start, which lowered his ERA to 3.34.

“He’s a perfectionist, and he doesn’t want to give up runs,” Suzuki said. “His job is to keep us in the ballgame. He’s starting to understand that he can give up a couple runs in one inning and make sure you bear down the rest of the game.”

After Young’s homer, Gonzalez continued to attack the Phillies with his fastball. His curveball receives the most plaudits, but Gonzalez is at his best when he works off his darting two-seamer. The reliance on his fastball made his changeup devilish, when necessary. He struck out Domonic Brown twice on six total pitches, all of them fastballs.

“I think Gio sometimes he pitches better like that, when he gives up a run or two early and he has to buckle down,” Werth said. “He pitches pretty good from behind. I’ve seen it happen before. But you like Gio on the mound. He’s in the game. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball when he’s got his good stuff going.”

Gonzalez’s dominance deserved better than another no-decision, and his season deserves better than a 3-3 record. The Nationals had lost the past four games Gonzalez started, and his last win came May 5. Only a sliver of fault, if any, could be directed at Gonzalez himself. In the eight starts since his last win, Gonzalez has allowed zero, two, one, four, one, two, one and two earned runs.

Wednesday night, he missed another chance at a win. But he kept the Nationals in the game long enough to let them earn the kind of victory that really matters.

… A bit of housekeeping news: Roger Bernadina was scratched with irritation in his left eye, which he woke up with Wednesday morning. He plans to see a team eye doctor Thursday. Chad Tracy felt stiffness in his back playing long toss during the afternoon. He could have pinch hit, and would have in the eighth inning until Davey Johnson called him back for a better matchup. Tracy expects the issue will subside after a couple days of treatment.

FROM THE POST

Jayson Werth kept the game alive and then Ian Desmond lifted the Nationals to a 6-2 victory with an 11th inning grand slam.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Harper to resume baseball activities

Davey, Rizzo support Eckstein

Espinosa optioned

Espinosa embraces demotion

Werth on eating faces

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Charlotte 2, Syracuse 1: Danny Espinosa went 0 for 4 with a walk and four strikeouts. Tyler Moore went 2 for 4 with a double. Will Rhymes went 3 for 5. In his debut at Class AAA, Caleb Clay allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings on five hits and a walk, striking out four.

Harrisburg 3, Bowie 1: Taylor Jordan allowed no runs in eight innings on three hits and two walks, striking out three. In his first seven starts at Harrisburg, Jordan, 24, is 6-0 with a 0.73 ERA. For the season, Jordan has a 0.93 ERA in 85 1/3 innings with 71 strikeouts and 14 walks. Brian Goodwin went 3 for 3 with a walk.

Potomac is on all-star break. Billy Burns went 1 for 3 with two runs and Blake Schwartz pitched a scoreless inning in the Carolina/California Leagues all-star game Tuesday night.

Hagerstown is on all-star break. Dixon Anderson allowed two hits in a scoreless inning and earned the win in the South Atlantic League all-star game.

Auburn 6, Batavia 3: Brian Lippincott went 2 for 4 with a walk. Robert Orlan allowed no runs in five innings on three hits and five walks, striking out two.

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