After almost bringing in Mark Buehrle to DC to pitch alongside Stephen Strasburg for the 2012 campaign, GM Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals settled for a guy we now know to be a smiley, easygoing All-Star—Mr. Gio Gonzalez. On Saturday, in a highly anticipated game Gonzalez faced Buehrle in the second of four at Marlins Park. Unfortunately, in a tight pitcher’s duel Buehrle would come on top, as the squad from Miami beat the Nats in a close one, 2-1. The Marlins improve to 42-45 while the Nats slip to 50-35, still gripping onto a 3 game lead over the red-hot Atlanta Braves. Buehrle got his 9th win of the season and Gio earned only his 4th loss coming off a solid one-inning appearance in Kansas City earlier this week.
Both starting pitchers were stellar in this one, but Buehrle would continue to be the guy to eat up innings for the home team and wear down Nats hitters despite a quick game pace. The red-clad crew from DC would earn their only run in the 5th, when Ian Desmond managed to slide into first base on an infield single, advance to 2nd on a failed pick-off attempt, and score on a Jesus Flores RBI single. The Nationals would leave three on base to end that inning, as the WHITE-hot Ryan Zimmerman returned to a human-like status and struck out off a dirty curveball by Buehrle.
The only other real chance the Nats had to score came in the 7th when Roger Bernadina pinch ran for Tyler Moore after the latter singled, then advanced to 2nd on a Flores sac bunt. Bernadina got to 3rd base on a Mark DeRosa groundout but the ever-inconsistent Danny Espinosa struck out to end the inning.
The 600 family and friends watching the Miami-bred Gio Gonzalez should not have been disappointed, although Gio would earn the loss Saturday night. No big hits for the Marlins, but a lot of small ball resulted in a bunch of hits and sacrifices that got the job done. The first Miami run came in the 4th, as Jose Reyes would lead off the inning with a single, his team’s first hit of the ballgame. An Omar Infante sacrifice bunt would bring Reyes to 2nd, and new arrival and former Astro Carlos Lee sent Reyes home with an RBI single.
After the Nats tied the game in the top of the 5th, the Marlins would strike back quickly in the bottom of that inning. Emilio Bonifacio bunted for a single, got to 2nd from a sacrifice bunt by outfielder Donovan Solano (get the trend of this game?), and then was driven in by a John Buck RBI single. The Nats were lucky that only these two runs would score in the game, as Miami would leave six runners on base in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings alone. The Nats still hope to take a series win as Strasburg takes the mound Sunday, followed by the streaky Edwin Jackson on Monday.
Champ of the Game: Gio pitched another great game, and with the run support he’s been used to this year should definitely have expected the win. Tough loss, but with nine strikeouts he is back to 4th in the MLB for that category, one behind Strasburg for the NL lead. He didn’t walk any batters Saturday and only gave up the two runs on five hits.
For the Marlins, Buehrle gets the nod. He was sensational and is now 4-0 in his last four starts, sporting a commendable 3.13 ERA. Final line: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K.
Chump of the Game: Leaving a man on 3rd base in the 7th is inexcusable for Mr. Espinosa. He should have done better than 0-4 with 2 Ks batting against a lefty.
For Miami, Hanley Ramirez went 0-3 with 2 strikeouts and a walk.
Next Game: Sunday, 1:10PM at Marlins Park. All-Star Stephen Strasburg (9-4, 2.82 ERA) will match up against Ricky Nolasco (8-6, 4.35 ERA).