Gio Gonzalez dominates in Nationals’ win over Marlins

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Sep 18, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) throws against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Nationals had a good start to their four-game series in Miami on Thursday night. The Nationals were clicking on all aspects of the game — pitching, hitting and defense — and played one of their best games of the season. The Nats won the game, 6-2, maintaining their lead over the Dodgers for the best record in the National League.

Gio Gonzalez had a terrific outing. It may have been the extra days rest, or it could have been pitching in Miami in front of his family and friends, or a combination of both. Whatever Gonzalez had for breakfast today needs to be his pre-game, go-to meal. He pitched seven innings, gave up two runs on six hits, struck out five and walked nobody.

Gonzalez looked good on the mound during the game. He was working with a faster rhythm than usual. He was not nibbling at the corners of the plate, which avoided a high pitch count and long counts to the batters. He looked confident and sure of his pitches.

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Kevin Frandsen started at first base because Adam LaRoche requested another day off to rest his sore back. Frandsen had two hits and a great play on a ball hit to him in the fourth inning. Anthony Rendon also had two hits, and Bryce Harper went three for four. Denard Span had his nine game hitting streak stopped, going 0 for 4.

Span contributed in this game not with his bat, but with his glove. The outfield in Miami is large and only the truly great outfielders get to balls in that cavern. Span made an incredible diving, rolling catch of a fly ball hit by Jeff Baker in the bottom of the fourth that should have dropped for a hit. Span got to every ball hit in his direction during the game.

Gonzalez gave up a run in the bottom of the second. Baker singled and Reed Johnson hit an RBI double to put the Marlins up, 1-0. The Marlins did not score again until the sixth.

Brad Hand was the starting pitcher for Miami and he looked like Cy Young for three innings. The Nationals did not get a hit the first time through the lineup. By the fourth inning, the Nationals had figured Hand out and the scoring began.

Span started the bottom of the fourth with a groundout. Rendon singled and stole second base. Jayson Werth struck out. With two outs, Wilson Ramos doubled to deep center, scoring Rendon. Ian Desmond singled and Johnson bobbled the ball just enough when he got to it to allow Ramos to score. Desmond went to third on Harper’s single to right. Asdrubal Cabrera then singled to right, scoring Desmond and sending Harper to third. Frandsen singled to right, scoring Harper. Cabrera went to third, and then went home on a poor throw by Johnson, who was charged with an error. Gonzalez popped out to end the inning. The Nats led 5-1 and were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Hand came out to pitch the fifth inning. He got Span to ground out again, but Rendon got him for another single. Werth then hit a ball that in most other parks would have been a home run. In Marlins Park it was just a 400 ft. double to deep center, but it was deep enough to score Rendon from first. That made the score 6-1 in favor of the Nats. Hand did not return to the game after the fifth.

Miami scored their second run in the bottom of the sixth. Christian Yelich doubled to lead off the inning. Donovan Solano flew out and Marcell Ozuna struck out, but Yelich stole third during Ozuna’s at bat. Baker then hit an infield single on a ball that Gonzalez laid out trying to stop. He got a glove on it, but only slowed the ball down. Gio tried to throw out Baker at first, but he was safe and the run scored. Gonzalez got Johnson to flyout to end the inning.

That was the end of the scoring for either team, as both bullpens pitched well the rest of the way. The Nationals got a look at Carter Capps, who has future closer written all over him. He mixed in several wild pitches along with strikeouts of Frandsen, Scott Hairston, Span and Rendon.

Craig Stammen faced the minimum in the eighth inning, and Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth. He faced Jordany Valdespin to lead off the ninth. Valdespin hit a ground ball to short on which Desmond made a terrific play, getting the out at first. That set the tone for the inning, and Soriano struck out Johnson and got a ground out by Adeiny Hechavarria to end the game.

Next game: The Nationals and Marlins play again on Friday night at Marlins Park at 7:10 p.m. EST. The scheduled pitchers are Doug Fister (14-6, 2.55 ERA) for the Nationals and Tom Koehler (9-9, 3.71 ERA) for the Marlins.

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