Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Treinen’s latest stint in the major leagues will not be his last. On that, his teammates and his manager agree. As a rotation placeholder while Gio Gonzalez recovered from left shoulder inflammation, Treinen made three starts. The Nationals lost all of them, but Treinen gave them a chance in each game, including Thursday’s 7-1 loss to the Giants, in which he allowed two runs in five innings.

Manager Matt Williams said Treinen would return to Class AAA Syracuse to work on building arm strength and learning how to pitch deeper into games. Treinen didn’t make it past six full innings in any of his starts (though he could have in San Diego), and his velocity flagged at the end of outings. But he impressed enough to convince the Nationals he’ll be back.

“We love playing behind him,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “He’s got some great stuff. I’m sure he’ll be the first to tell you he needs to learn some more things, learn some more situations – when to go for a strikeout, when to go for a groundball. His stuff is just phenomenal. Seeing it from the side and watching hitters’ reactions, he’s good. He’s really good. It’ll be nice to get Gio back in his old form, hopefully for the rest of the year.”

Treinen allowed only two runs in all three of his starts, and he’ll take a career 2.08 ERA back to the minors with him. Treinen showed he has the chance to become an innings-eating, groundball-inducing machine – batters can’t help but pound his mid-to-high 90s sinker into the dirt. He didn’t allow a home run. Among major league pitchers with at least 30 innings, Treinen ranks 12th with a 59.8-percent groundball rate.

“He’s been doing anything we’ve asked him to do, whether it’s one inning out of the bullpen, multiple innings out of the bullpen, starting,” Williams said. “I still feel like he’s a young starter. Change-up is developing. Breaking ball is developing. He’s got a good sinker. For him to get deeper and deeper into games is important. I think he’s done well.”

Treinen proved his nerve to teammates Thursday. With the bases loaded no outs, Treinen showed confidence in his change-up, using to strike out Ehire Adrianza. Then he induced a double play from pitcher Tim Hudson, escaping the outing with no damage.

“A power sinker will do that,” Williams said. “That’s his go-to pitch. He’s one pitch away from a double play ball all the time. That’s one of his weapons.”

“Blake did a great job,” Kevin Frandsen said. “Even today, when things weren’t going right, he didn’t coward through it. He battled through it. He got the groundballs when we needed. For a young guy, that shows us more than anything. He’s not going to shy away from a little adversity he had been dealt. He kept us in the game. That’s all you could ever ask for. With his stuff, I mean, at some point it’ll take off. He’s going to take off.”



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Syracuse 5, Norfolk 3: Ryan Tatusko allowed three runs over 5 1/3 innings. Daniel Stange, Manny Delcarmen and Warner Madrigal combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Zach Walters hit his sixth home run of the season. Destin Hood, hitting .320, drove in two runs. Jhonatan Solano, Steven Souza Jr. and Tyler Moore each had two hits.

Harrisburg 9, Erie 6: A.J. Cole earned his sixth win by allowing five runs, three earned, over five innings. Rafael Martin tossed three scoreless innings. Matt Skole is heating up and hit his sixth home run of the season, a three-run shot. Michael A. Taylor went 2 for 3 and hit his 16th homer of the season. Cutter Dykstra and Kevin Keyes each drove in two runs.

Hagerstown was postponed.

Potomac 3, Winston-Salem 2: The Nationals clinched the first-half division title. In his second rehab start, Gio Gonzalez allowed one run on two hits, walked four and struck out seven over four innings. Bryan Harper allowed one run on two hits. Chris Manno, Gilberto Mendez and Robert Benincasa combined for three scoreless innings. Oscar Tejeda hit his 10th home run of the season. Khayyan Norfork drove in run with a double.

Auburn’s season opener is Friday.