“There’s a lot of season left, but we need to get going,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said.
After a string of improved starts, Gonzalez surrended four runs in 52
3 innings, three of them coming in a laborious fourth inning. Hammel, on the other hand, entered Monday’s game with a 5.37 ERA and had yet to complete the seventh inning this season but held the Nationals to two runs over eight innings in 107 pitches. Without the injured Bryce Harper, their best hitter, the Nationals sprinkled eight hits but left six men on base.
Hammel, a former member of the Colorado Rockies, improved to 6-0 with a 3.14 ERA against the Nationals, the most wins without a loss by any active pitcher against Washington. His hard sinkers filled the strike zone at 93 to 94 mph and invited contact. The Nationals failed to get into the Orioles’ struggling and injured bullpen.
“That’s been kind of our M.O.,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “We were showing signs of coming out of it.”
The Nationals needed a strong pitching performance against the second-best hitting team in baseball to overcome their own shortcomings. Gonzalez allowed three base runners over the first three innings. His pitches, according to catcher Kurt Suzuki, were moving a lot. But a few too many pitches were up in the strike zone. And the mashing Orioles smacked them around.
“It seems like I was still getting myself out of situations and then I’d put myself in situations,” Gonzalez said.
With a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning, Gonzalez stumbled. He walked slugger Chris Davis to lead off the inning, the third of four walks he issued. Then came the assembly line of Orioles hitters.
Matt Wieters singled, and then Steve Pearce lifted a ball to left. Left fielder Tyler Moore, a first baseman converted to an outfielder, caught the ball and fired a strike to Zimmerman. Davis beat the tag by inches, and Gonzalez faced a one-out mess. With an American League team in a National League stadium, Gonzalez desperately needed to get the eighth-place hitter out. If he could, he would have two outs and the pitcher coming to bat. He couldn’t.
Yamaico Navarro fouled off three fastballs and held off on two curveballs in the dirt. With a full count, Gonzalez fired a 94-mph fastball in on Navarro’s hands. Navarro blooped it into left field to tie the game. Hammel’s subsequent sacrifice bunt moved the two runners into scoring position, setting up Nick Markakis’s two-run single. The Orioles took a 3-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.