Call off the search for offense: the Nats just found it hiding in Atlanta.
Gio Gonzalezpitched seven strong innings, allowing only two runs and striking out ten to take the MLB lead in Ks, as the Nats (29-18) scored 7+ runs for the third consecutive game in a 7-2 win to complete the sweep of the Braves.
Gonzalez was dominant, allowing his two runs on only two hits and three walks. He allowed both runs in the first three innings, but quickly settled down, at one point retiring 16 of 17 batters. He is establishing himself as an early contender for the NL Cy Young award, as he leads the NL in strikeouts, ahead of Stephen Strasburg by nine, is now tied for the league lead in wins with seven, and is third in both ERA and WHIP. Ironically, the pitcher Gonzalez beat tonight, Brandon Beachy, is first in both of the categories Gonzalez does not lead.
For the third straight game, the Nats’ offense answered backed up the pitching. After loading the bases with no outs in the 2nd, the Nats were able to score two runs thanks to a Jesus Flores single and a Gonzalez sac fly, which was Gonzalez’s first career RBI. The bulk of the damage was done in the 6th inning, when starter Brandon Beachy was lifted and replaced with three-time Nationals Opening Day starter Livan Hernandez. Flores hit another RBI single, Steve Lombardozzi added a two-run double, and Ryan Zimmerman hit in the inning’s fourth run with a two-out single. The icing on the cake came in the 8th, as Bryce Harper homered for the second straight game.
Despite the great game, there was also bad news for the Nats, as Davey Johnson announced that Flores strained his hamstring running to first base in the 7th. Catcher is a position where the Nats can ill-afford an injury, as they have already lost Wilson Ramos for the year to a torn ACL and first backup Sandy Leon to a high-ankle sprain. Fortunately, it appears that Flores will not have to be placed on the DL, and will miss only a few games.
Champ of the Game: Gonzalez, for his stellar start and double-digit strikeout total.
For the Braves, Michael Bourn had one of the team’s three hits with a triple, and scored both runs.
Chump of the Game: Ian Desmond, who was 0-5 with two strikeouts.
Livan Hernandez allowed a close game to explode into a blowout for the Braves.
Unsung Hero: Flores was 3-4 with 2 RBI and powered along much of the Nats’ offense.
Beachy only allowed one earned run in 5 innings for the Braves, but an error made him allow two unearned runs and he took the loss.
Next Game: Monday, May 28th in Miami. Zambrano (2-3, 2.85) v. Zimmermann (3-4, 2.47)