The offense was no-hit by Atlanta starter Tim Hudson for four innings. The bullpen was taxed again. The defeat left the Nationals at 13-14, and dropped them under .500 for the second time, a mark they did not hit last season. The closest the Nationals came to a .500 month during 2012 was May’s 15-13 mark. They have lost nine straight games to the Braves dating from last season.
Following the loss, Manager Davey Johnson, who again called for more changes to the lineup for the next game, asked reporters: “Do we have to talk about this one?” The clubhouse was utterly quiet, normal for a loss, and Ian Desmond went discreetly from player to player and chatted briefly, with the apparent intent of gathering them for a meeting once the media left.
“Everyone’s trying to do better for the team, but I feel like you have to put yourself aside and start playing for the team,” Desmond said. “You know what I mean? We’ve got to throw the ball over the plate, we’ve got to hit strikes and we’ve got to field the ball. That’s what it boils down to.”
The Nationals’ starting rotation, as it was last season, has been the backbone.
But when it has struggled, there is little room for error. The Nationals’ slow-starting offense is in the bottom portion of the league, as is the bullpen. The defense has committed a major league-worst 23 errors.
“The pitchers haven’t been consistent, a couple guys struggling, some key guys on the offense are not doing the things they’re capable of doing,” Johnson said. “Trying to get going. It snowballs.”
Gonzalez put the Nationals in a hole with his first two pitches. Braves leadoff hitter Andrelton Simmons drilled a home run in the bottom of the first inning. Gonzalez walked two batters, gave up an RBI double to Evan Gattis and the Nationals trailed 2-0.
The following inning, Gonzalez yielded two more runs, allowing yet another leadoff hitter to reach. Hudson doubled to start the frame and scored on a single by Chris Johnson. Gonzalez made a spectacular diving catch on a pop-up bunt from Simmons for the first out.
But he was again plagued by high pitch counts and shaky command that left balls over the plate.
Gonzalez fired a wild pitch to put Johnson in scoring position and Freddie Freeman scored him with a single. He managed to strike out nine Braves over four innings but walked five, throwing 96 pitches over four innings but only 57 for strikes.