With a boom-or-bust offense like the Nationals have had recently, those boom nights feel pretty good.
Gonzalez struggled early, but managed to wriggle out of trouble and settled down late. In the first inning, two hard-hit doubles gave San Diego a 1-0 lead, and it looked like the Nats would have an uphill battle to stay in contention for this game. That fear was reaffirmed in the top of the second when Gio allowed a single and a double with no outs to put two runners in scoring position. However, seemingly locking down, he struck out the next three batters he faced to keep the score 1-0.
In the bottom of the second, the Nats shellacked Andrew Cashner to give Gio quite a cushion to work with. Three singles, two walks, a hit by pitch, a double, and a sacrifice fly put the Nats up 5-1 as they batted around. The first RBI hit came from Ramos, who singled in two for his seventh RBI in the past two games, the most any Nat has had in two games this year. He extended that number to eight with another RBI later in the game. Denard Span scored two more with a double, and Bryce Harper, who is still hitless since hitting that home run after he came off the DL, had a sacrifice fly.
Entering the third inning, Gio had thrown 50 pitches, and it looked like there was no way he would pitch beyond the fifth inning, if he even got that far. As the game continued, he continued to allow runners, but did so efficiently. He allowed a single to open the third, but erased it with a double play before a solo homer from Chase Headley cut the lead to 5-2. The scorching-hot Ramos made up for it in the home half of that inning, recording his fifth straight hit and driving in Adam LaRoche to restore the four-run lead. In the fourth, Gio worked around a single and a walk to post another scoreless frame. In the bottom of the fourth, the Nats scored again with RBIs from Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth to take an 8-2 lead.
After the offense scored for the third straight inning, Gio finally got the hint to lock down on his end. He was perfect and efficient in the fifth and sixth, inducing five groundouts and a flyout. In the seventh, he gave up a single and got two outs before being pulled. His replacement, Craig Stammen, would give up a three-run homer to Carlos Quentin to cut the lead to 8-5 before it ended, charging Gio with another earned run. His final line was not what you’d expect after the first two innings: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Despite Stammen’s rough outing, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano threw perfect innings to lock the win down and get Soriano his 23rd save.
The Nats’ offense struck for at least eight runs for the second straight game and fourth time in six games, although it scored exactly one total run in those other two games. Every starting position player reached base at least once except Harper, who is now hitless in his last 19 at-bats. Werth was 3-4 with an RBI and a run scored, while Ramos was 2-4 with a run scored and three RBI. If he can keep hitting like this the Nationals will have quite the offense to contend with, and even more so when Harper returns to his MVP-esque April form.
Next Game: Saturday at Nationals Park, 4:05 PM. Strasburg (4-6, 2.24) v. Marquis (9-4, 3.74)