In their 5-1 victory Wednesday night over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals upended Lee with an uncommon barrage, and Gonzalez delivered one of his most essential starts in a Nationals uniform. Gonzalez earned his fourth straight win with seven dominant innings, allowing only one run on six hits as his ERA shrunk to 3.03 and the Nationals’ losing skid halted before it could grow past two games.
“I had to prepare myself today that it was going to be a low-scoring game,” Gonzalez said. “It’s good to see your team go out there and battle and do what you did.”
In his first 135 2
3 innings this season, Lee had surrendered only nine home runs. And then he gave up four in a span of eight batters, spasms of back-to-back homers in two straight innings. Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos smashed consecutive home runs in the fifth, and then Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth did the same in the sixth.
Gonzalez responded by starting the game with six scoreless innings, then yielded a solo homer to Darin Ruf in the seventh, only after the Nationals had emptied their barrels on Lee. He struck out five, walked two and continued to validate his maiden season in Washington.
“For me,” Ramos said, “He’s the same guy every time.”
Lee entered Wednesday night 10-2 with a 2.73 ERA, and he had dominated the Nationals in their meeting earlier in the year. The Nationals entered with the lowest batting average in the majors against left-handed pitchers.
Manager Davey Johnson, though, trusted a different omen: He liked the way the Nationals took batting practice. Lee pummels the inside of the strike zone, and Johnson wanted to counter Lee’s aggression with more aggression. In the late afternoon, they attacked pitches.
“There’s a big difference,” Johnson said. “Sometimes, we come into batting practice and we look like we try to hit everything to right field. Today, we were hitting it on the rooftops. We knew who was out there.”
After Lee’s first 58 pitches Wednesday night, the Nationals had taken eight balls and swatted four solo home runs. By the end of the night, Lee had thrown 64 strikes in 76 pitches, the second-highest percentage of any starter since 2000.
“We attack early, and that’s the point — we have to do it every time,” Ramos said. “Those pitchers like that, they’re aggressive with us. We have to be aggressive with them.”