After Washington’s comeback win over Atlanta earlier in the week, it looked like the Washington Nationals offense had turned the corner. They posted 13, 13, and 8 runs over their three game winning streak. They were crushing the ball and keeping the line moving. Then, Friday night, they ran into the wall that is Matt Harvey, who brought the streaks of wins and high-powered offense to a screeching halt.
If they wanted to get themselves back on track, the Nats would have to do it against Jon Niese, who was coming off of a rough performance against the Yankees in which he gave up six runs (four earned runs) over 5 innings. Pitching opposite him for the Nats was Gio Gonzalez, who was coming off a similar poor performance in which he gave up six runs of his own in a loss to Miami. Based on the pitching, it looked like Saturday’s contest could turn out to be the complete opposite of Friday night’s pitcher’s duel.
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It would be the Nationals who struck first. After singles by Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, Gio Gonzalez laid down a bunt to advance them to second and third, and Michael Taylor brought Desmond home when third baseman Daniel Murphy couldn’t handle the ground ball. It was the first time the Nats had scored since Thursday, and gave them an early 1-0 lead.
It was fortunate for the Nationals that Gio had his good stuff working Saturday, as the Nationals continued to struggle offensively. Through the seven innings that Gio pitched, Washington stranded nine runners and was hitting 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position to keep the lead locked at a single run.
Saturday actually turned out to be an incredibly impressive bounce back game for Gio. He threw 111 pitches over seven innings in which he attacked hitters and managed to work out of the few jams that he got himself into. He finished with a line of no earned runs on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in a performance that was reminiscent of his 2012 performance when he won 21 games.
After Gio was pulled, Aaron Barrett and Matt Grace combined to pitch a perfect eighth inning. Then, when the Nationals still could not manage to add any insurance runs, it was up to Drew Storen to close out the game. He proved up to the task, wrapping up his sixth save of the season on just nine pitches. The Nationals got their fourth win in five games with the 1-0 victory, and now have a chance to take the series 3-1 if they can win Sunday.
While the Nationals didn’t manage to get their offense back on track (if anything, they looked worse with the way that they stranded runners), it’s nice to see Gio pitch the way he did, and even more reassuring to see the bullpen get outs without getting itself into trouble. Hopefully the pitching staff can keep that momentum going until the offense can get its legs back.
Tomorrow afternoon’s game (1:10 PM ET, MASN) will feature a matchup of Doug Fister (1-1, 3.28 ERA) against Mets pitcher Dillon Gee (0-1, 4.26) as the Nationals try to take the series from the NL East leading Mets.
- Bryce Harper stretched his career-high on-base streak to 18 games with a walk in the first inning. Although the strikeout numbers are still a little high for Harper, he’s showing good discipline and forcing pitchers to throw a lot of pitches when he’s at the plate. There’s little doubt that he’s been the most consistent member of the offense this year.
- Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond combined to throw out Juan Lagares at the plate in the bottom of the first. Desmond’s relay throw was right on target, and Lagares was out by a mile. In a game that was 1-0 all the way into the eighth, the run they saved was a big one.
- The Nationals were bad with runners in scoring position, but it didn’t help with the way they were hitting. They managed zero extra base hits for the entire game, failing to drive the ball. It didn’t hurt them, but that’s something they need to avoid.