The Washington Nationals split the two game set against the New York Yankees with an extra-innings win on Wednesday afternoon 5-4. The Nationals were sliding a bit, losing nine of their last 11 going into that game. They needed a good outing from Gio Gonzalez and he did not disappoint.
Gio seems to always put up solid, if not great, starts each time he takes the mound, and Gio provided a much-needed boost with his performance. He went 6.1 innings, giving up two runs on four hits. He was in command of his curve and was pounding the zone early and often.
He does seem to have a tendency to tire out and hit a wall in later innings as opposed to finishing strong like a Max Scherzer might and that trend continued this start. The seventh was not kind to Gio, as he gave up a single and a triple to deep center, but any starter needs to be able to rely on his bullpen to come through. But, as of late, the Nats’ pen has underperformed.
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This victory featured the tale of two bullpens. Felipe Rivero came in to face Brett Gardner in the seventh and promptly gave up a double down the line. He was relieved by Aaron Barrett who also promptly gave up a double over Denard Span‘s head. He did get a bit unlucky when an easy ground ball bounced of the second-base bag for a hit plating another run, but the Rivero and Barrett combo was not effective.
This summarizes the Nats’ bullpen quite nicely as there is immense talent, but they have a tendency to be a bit streaky. If they are all on a heater, watch out, no team can touch them. However, when they are on a cold snap (see the Reds’ series), it can spell disaster for the starting rotation and the team.Effective pitching can only do some much as the team still has to score runs and the Nationals have not been producing well as of late.
What I see as an Achilles Heel of this team is situational hitting and the Nats’ continued that trend by going 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The team relies too much on the long ball, with three of the Nats’ five runs coming via the homer, and not enough on small ball.
That being said, Denard Span proved the old adage true that when you put the ball in play, good things happen In the 11th inning, he hit a ground ball up the middle that scored Tyler Moore. That was a perfect example of small ball and the Nats need to do more of that to pull themselves through these hitting droughts.
Up Next, the Nationals continue their road trip with a four-game weekend set against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Let’s see if Tanner Roark can make it two wins in a row and start up another win streak.