Ever since Tuesday night’s comeback win over the Atlanta Braves, the Washington Nationals have won four of their last five games. This includes taking two of the first three games at Citi Field against the New York. Over those three games, Washington’s starting rotation has been as advertised, especially last night as Gio Gonzalez kept the Mets off the board while the Nats offense managed nine singles and only one run.
Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Gonzalez have combined to give up three earned runs in this series against a New York offense that is fourth in RBIs in the National League. The rotation as a whole has put up four straight quality starts as Doug Fister gets set to take the mound tomorrow afternoon. Their total of 14 quality starts on the season up to this point is tied for fourth in the NL and one behind the Mets for second.
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One of the things I liked about Gonzalez’s stuff last night was his ability to get out of jams. For the first six innings, I had the sense where last night would end up like the first Phillies start where Gonzalez lost command in the seventh inning as the Nats would eventually lose that game. However, Gonzalez kept his poise in some key spots in the game. For example, New York had second and third with two outs in the fifth, but Gonzalez was able to break Lucas Duda’s bat and force him to ground out to second.
On the night, Gonzalez threw 111 pitches (77 strikes). The pitch count was his highest since he threw 111 pitches on August 10 of last year against the Braves. Gonzalez had nine strikeouts, which was a season high for him as he was able to paint the corners with his fastball all night, getting the pitch up to 95 miles per hour at times. I had no problem with Gonzalez starting the seventh inning at 98 pitches because he was facing the bottom of the Mets order.
Another thing to takeaway from last night’s win was the great job that Aaron Barrett and Matt Grace did in the eighth inning. As a duo, they shut the Mets down in order as Barrett got Granderson to pop out to Ramos and struck out Lagares on a nasty slider low and away. Right now, I have more confidence in Barrett for the eighth inning role, but I liked that manager Matt Williams went to Grace to face Duda since Grace has also been very effective since being called up as the second lefty to Matt Thornton.
When you look back at the first series of the year in Nats Park against the Mets, the defensive miscues cost the Nats in those two losses. In this series, the defense has been great and the rotation has not had to get extra outs.
In the bottom of the first inning, Lucas Duda hit a double into the left field corner, but Jayson Werth got the ball quickly to Ian Desmond, who fired it in to Wilson Ramos to get the speedy Juan Lagares at the plate. Yes, Lagares made a base running mistake on the play, but Washington’s defense has thrown out runners at the plate in back-to-back games (Bryce Harper throwing out Granderson on Friday).
While the offense is still not clicking all at once just yet, the improved play on defense and the consistent starting pitching are putting this team on the right track as they have won four of their last five and have a chance to win the series this afternoon against the team they are chasing in the division. After being swept to start the road trip in Miami, the Nats can somehow finish 5-5 over those ten games with a win today, which would be a good sign as the team heads home for a week.