Washington Nationals: Gio Gonzalez bounces back but bats go missing

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PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 11: Gio Gonzalez #47 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on July 11, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 11: Gio Gonzalez #47 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on July 11, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Once again, the Washington Nationals offense was shutout for the tenth time this season. They couldn’t back up a solid Gio Gonzalez showing to give him a W.

Despite promising performances against the Miami Marlins, the Washington Nationals bats picked up where they left off. They couldn’t back up a much improved Gio Gonzalez in a 2-0 loss.

The offense could only muster up five hits, and four walks on Wednesday afternoon. They had baserunners in six of the first seven innings, but could never find the crucial hit. Sound familiar?

It’s been a theme ever since the start of the Nats’ slide at the start of June. Since June 1st, with runners on and nobody out, the Nationals are third in the National League in strikeout percentage. Where a strikeout is the worst outcome because it doesn’t even move the runner.

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And just to compound their issues in the series finale, Gio Gonzalez was the only player with an extra-base hit. Gonzalez deserved better.

The veteran lefty went six innings, giving up six hits and just the two runs. But the big blow was a Starling Marte homer that was the difference in the game. On another day, Gonzalez would’ve got the win, but the run support was a disappointment again.

Harper finishes off miserable series

Although he did at least draw two walks on Wednesday, Bryce Harper will be glad to see the back of PNC Park. He went just 1 for 11, with the one hit being a solo blast in the first game.

It’s the strikeouts that are by far and away the biggest concern for the harper this season. He had six in this series, and that’s now taken him up to fifth in the National League in that stat.

Despite the strikeouts and the painfully low .213 batting average. He is still an above average bat in the lineup. He’s got a .369 OBP, while the league average is just .318 and obviously you can’t ignore the home runs where he’s third in the NL with 22. He still needs more base hits to drive in runs, but there still should be a spot for Harper in the lineup.

Strasburg on track for next weekend

On the bright side, Stephen Strasburg looks like he’ll be ready to start the first game out of the All-Star break. He completed his first rehab start on Tuesday with the Potomac Nationals.

He threw 3 1/3 innings, allowing just two hits, one walk and one run with five strikeouts. That’s pretty much as you’d expect from a rehabbing major league ace.

His next start is due on Sunday, which would put him on course to start next Friday against the Atlanta Braves. The Nationals may need him more than ever right now, with a pitching staff that’s struggling to get through five innings.

Next: Which prospects could the Nats deal?

In their final series before the All-Star Game, the Washington Nationals take on the New York Mets. If they don’t win the series, at least, there are going to be serious questions asked at the All-Star break.

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