Prior to the start of Friday night’s game with the Phillies, Washington Nationals fans could feel optimistic about the team’s chances to win. The pitching matchup was Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals against journeyman pitcher Jerome Williams for the Phillies. Williams started six games for the Nationals back in 2007 and had an 0-5 record before getting released. On paper, the Nats appeared to have an advantage in the pitching department.
Well, this is why the teams actually have to play the games. The Nationals hitters, as is often the case, made a mediocre pitcher look like a Cy Young winner. Gio Gonzalez was brilliant for six innings, but lost his control in the seventh and loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter before being lifted for reliever Xavier Cedeno. By the time the bottom of the seventh came to a merciful end, the Nats were looking at a three run deficit and ended up losing the game 4-1.
The game started well for the Nationals. The first batter, Michael Taylor, hit a home run to give the Nats the lead. After Yunel Escobar grounded out, Bryce Harper singled and the Nats had something going. Ryan Zimmerman flew out, then Wilson Ramos singled, sending Harper to third. However, the Nats wasted this opportunity to tack on more runs when Ian Desmond flew out to end the inning.
The Phillies had their opportunity to score in the first. Ben Revere singled, but then got caught stealing for the first out. Freddy Galvis drew a walk, but was out on a fielder’s choice hit by Chase Utley. Then, Darin Ruf walked to put two on with two out. Ruf’s walk was painful, because he worked it after being down 0-2 in the count and Gio started nibbling instead of going after the hitter. Gonzalez induced a ground out from Jeff Francoeur to end the Phillies threat.
Gio then pitched the rest of the way with the Nats clinging to a one run lead. After getting three hits in the first, the Nationals only managed to get two more hits off of Williams over the next five innings. In the fourth inning, Zimmerman drew a walk. After Ramos struck out, Desmond singled, sending Zimmerman to third. However, Desmond was thrown out at second trying to stretch the single into a double. It was a very close play at second, but instead of runners at the corners with one out and a chance to score a run, the Nats had two outs and Dan Uggla struck out to end the inning.
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Zimmerman singled in the sixth inning with two outs, but was stranded by a Ramos groundout to end the inning. Other than that, the Nats could muster no hitting against Williams, who went six innings.
Then came the disastrous seventh inning. Gonzalez started the inning having thrown 69 pitches. However, just coming out of spring training and not being stretched out, Gio lost his fine control of his pitches and did not adjust. Francoeur flew out to start the inning. Gio then walked Grady Sizemore and Cameron Ruff in succession. He was ahead of both hitters 0-2 and lost both of them because he had lost his pinpoint control. Instead of going after both of the batters he started nibbling. Gonzalez got ahead of the next batter, Andres Blanco, 1-2 and then hit him with a pitch to load the bases. That was the end of Gio’s night.
Matt Williams called on Xavier Cedeno to try to get the Nats out of the jam Gio left behind. He didn’t succeed. Pinch hitter Cesar Hernandez singled on the first pitch he saw, driving in two runs and giving the Phillies their first lead of the game. Cedeno then hit Revere with a pitch to reload the bases. Williams removed Cedeno and called on Craig Stammen to stem the tide. That didn’t work out particularly well either. Galvis singled on the first pitch he saw from Stammen, driving in another run. Utley then hit a sacrifice fly for the second out, scoring another run. With two out, Stammen got Ruf to groundout to Desmond, who made a nice play on the ball to get the third out.
Blake Treinen pitched the eighth for the Nationals and turned in another fine performance, striking out Francoeur and inducing ground outs from Odubel Herrera and Ruff. Treinen is making a bid to take Tyler Clippard’s eighth inning role and run with it. So far, he is one of the bright spots in the Nats bullpen.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched his usual one-two-three ninth for his second save of the season. The Nationals lost game one of the three game series and continued their troubles winning at Citizens Bank Park.
Next Game: The Nationals and Phillies play another game Saturday at 7:05 pm EST in Philadelphia. You can catch the game on MASN2 The Nationals send Doug Fister to the mound for his first start of the season. Phillies ace Cole Hamels (0-1, 7.20 ERA) makes his second start of the year after getting rocked by the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day. Despite Hamels’ problems in his last outing, expect a pitching duel.