“I just felt a little flat,” Gonzalez said. “Nothing was moving too much. You’re going hit some patches every once in a while. You leave anything out there, they’re going to make you pay for it.”
Gonzalez established himself as an early-season Cy Young candidate and made the all-star team, but in the past month he has fallen off that torrid pace. In his past nine starts, a span that started June 3, Gonzalez has a 4.93 ERA. Manager Davey Johnson saw no big-picture reason for concern.
“It was one of those days. He didn’t have too much command,” Johnson said. “He didn’t have too much going for him. Command is the big key for him. It was one of those days. I don’t think he had his best stuff, either.”
Friday, the Nationals will begin perhaps their most crucial series since baseball returned to Washington in 2005. The Atlanta Braves, after beating the Giants on Thursday afternoon, will come to Nationals Park trailing them in the National League East by 3½ games. By the end of a four-game series, which includes a Saturday doubleheader, the Nationals could either hold a dominant lead or stand in second place.
“I wasn’t looking ahead,” Johnson said. “But I’m sure some of the guys were looking ahead a little bit.”
Even though the Nationals had little chance Thursday after falling behind by eight runs after four innings, Johnson said, “it’s not always a complete bad day.” They rallied enough to have the tying run in the on-deck circle in both the eighth and ninth innings. Bryce Harper came to the plate down five with the bases loaded in the eighth, flying out to left. The Mets used four relievers for the final five outs.
Drew Storen unveiled a new-and-improved sinker in his season debut, a 1-2-3 ninth. Ian Desmond slapped a pinch-hit single and convinced Johnson he’s fit to return to the lineup Friday. Henry Rodriguez pitched a flawless 11
3 innings, and Mark DeRosa came off the bench with two hits. Rookie catcher Sandy Leon replaced Jesus Flores and roped his first major league hit, a single up the middle. “Amazing,” Leon said. He will send the ball to his father in Venezuela.
“A lot of good things happened in that ballgame,” Johnson said.