Washington Nationals Recap: Nats offense explodes for nine runs to back Gio Gonzalez
It’s hard to know for sure if any of the Washington Nationals bore any lingering resentment to the Pirates for the way Max Scherzer‘s bid at a perfect game ended yesterday, scuttled on the crag of Jose Tabata‘s elbow protector. But if they did, the lineup wasted no time taking out their frustration during a first inning that saw eight hits, nine runs, and 43 pitches, and reduced Pirates starter Charlie Morton to a smoldering mess.
It started innocently enough, with Yunel Escobar collecting a simple single, but Bryce Harper really got the party started afterward, crushing a ball into the right field stands for his 24th home run of the season. From there, the rout was on. A Robinson double and a single by Jose Lobaton made it 3-0. Ian Desmond added a single of his own before Michael Taylor‘s infield single made it 4-0.
More from Nationals News
- Latest DraftKings Sportsbook Promo Code in Maryland: Bet $5, Win $200 Guaranteed
- Nationals Claim Jeter Downs Off Waivers
- Washington Nationals Tuesday Q&A
- A Washington Nationals Christmas Wishlist
- Robots in Baseball? The Possibility of an Automated Ball/Strike System in the MLB
The lead would then stretch to five on a play that was a microcosm of Morton’s day. With Gio Gonzalez at the plate, Morton threw over to first, attempting to pick off Taylor. Instead, the ball ended up shooting by the glove of Corey Hart. Desmond raced home, while Taylor sped around second to wind up on third.
And still the scoring continued. Gio helped his own cause with an RBI double to right fielder Jose Tabata, who spent his entire afternoon being booed loudly by the entirety of Nationals Park. Next, Denard Span, the only Nats starter to not end up with at least one hit, drew a walk, and Escobar, who had started the rally, put the exclamation point on it with a three run shot into the stands in the left field corner.
Nats 9, Pirates 0.
At that point, Charlie Morton‘s day was done. The Pirates right-hander, who entered the game with a 5-0 record and an ERA of 1.62, exited after just 0.2 innings, his ERA having ballooned all the way up to 3.97. He was an abject disaster on the mound. He struggled to find the strike zone at points. When he did manage to put it over the plate, the Nats made him pay. The Pirates bullpen, through a combination of Vance Worley, Antonio Bastardo, and Arquimedes Caminero, managed to keep the lead from reaching double digits, but the wind was already out of the Pirates’ sails, the outcome all but decided.
For the third time in the series, the Nationals received a fantastic performance from their starting pitching. A day after Max Scherzer‘s no hitter, Gio Gonzalez (5-4, 4.41) worked through seven scoreless innings without much trouble. He worked around leadoff walks in the third and fourth, and two on with no outs in the sixth. Each time, he reached back and found something extra to confound the Pirates lineup.
Once Gio’s day was done, Matt Thornton handled the eighth. Felipe Rivero was able to get through the ninth, though not until after the Pirates had managed to hang two runs on the board to end the shutout. The 9-2 win moves the Nationals to 37-33 on the season, and, pending the Mets results tonight, will hold either a 1.5 or 0.5 game lead in the NL East.
Tomorrow, the Nats will be off before kicking off a three game divisional series with the rival Braves on Tuesday. You can catch the game at 7:05 PM ET on MASN2. No starter has been named for the Nats, but Alex Wood (4-4, 3.40) will start for the Braves.
- The Nationals put up a 24.2 inning scoreless streak over the course of this series sweep thanks to spectacular performances from their pitching staff, and the starters in particular. Getting those sort of outings from your starters only helps the bullpen, and the Nats are seeing big results there.
- Bryce Harper‘s homer in the first inning was his 24th on the season, and it puts him on pace to hit 55 for the season.