For the first time since the 2014 NLDS, a series in which the Washington Nationals offense was almost nonexistent, the Nationals and Giants squared off, kicking off a three game series in DC on Friday afternoon. Fortunately for Washington, the nine months did a world of difference. A Clint Robinson home run after Bryce Harper drew his third walk of the afternoon put the Nationals up 2-1 in the seventh inning, and they never looked back.
For a while, it looked like Gio Gonzalez would be the third straight victim of a Nats offense that looked like it was entering a slump. A night after Max Scherzer was on the losing end of a 2-1 decision that featured poor hitting and a questionable call, Gonzalez was in a similar position.
The only real shot the Nats had had at an early run was when Gio attempted to help his own cause in the bottom of the third inning, sending a ball deep to left field that missed being fair by a foot. The umpires reviewed the call and upheld the decision; the score remain locked at 0-0.
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It remained that way for four more innings before the Giants struck. Buster Posey, leading off the top of the seventh, caught all of one, launching a solo shot to the deepest part of center field. Gonzalez, who entered the game with a 5-1 record and a 1.88 ERA in his last nine home starts, was down in spite of pitching one of his best games of the season and fighting through rain for the second start in a row.
But the Nationals showed some resolve. Bryce Harper led off the frame, and the Giants, still reticent to pitch to the slugger after what happened in the NLDS, pitched around him. For the third time in three plate appearances, Harper was on base with a walk. Unlike the two previous chances, though, Clint Robinson made them pay. Jake Peavy tried to pitch him inside, but the first baseman turned on the pitch. The ball ended up in the left field stands, and the Nats led 2-1.
Matt Thornton would come on in the eighth in relief of Gonzalez, who finished giving one run on five hits with six strikeouts and no walks. Thornton pitched a perfect eighth, then handed the ball over to Drew Storen, looking for his 24th save of the season.
The Nats closer made quick work of the Giants, and the Nats walked away with a 2-1 victory. The win moves the Nationals to eight games over .500, and gives them a four game lead on the Mets, pending the outcome of their matchup with the Dodgers later tonight.
Tomorrow, the Nats will attempt to take game two of the series in what should be a spectacular pitching matchup. Stephen Strasburg (5-5, 5.49 ERA) will look to make his third straight quality start after returning from injury against World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner (8-4, 2.99 ERA).You can catch the game at 11:05 AM ET on MASN and MLB Network.