Near the top of a long list of indicators the Washington Nationals want to see as the gear up for the postseason is the return of the Gio Gonzalez of old.
And, on Thursday night, the Nats saw just that as Gonzalez delivered his greatest outing of the season to help the Nats to a 3-0 win over the New York Mets in game two of a split doubleheader at Nationals Park.
Gonzalez (W, 10-10) threw 70 of 103 total pitches for strikes, allowing just one hit and two walks through seven innings pitched while fanning a career-high 12. His fastball reportedly reached 94 MPH, and his entire arsenal worked as the Mets struggled to make contact. In fact, Gonzalez struck out six consecutive batters beginning with Lucas Duda to start the top of the second and ending with starting pitcher Zack Wheeler to close out the third.
The Nats’ offense was slow to awaken against Wheeler (L, 11-11), but in the fourth, they made do with back-to-back singles by Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos. Nate Schierholtz drew a walk to load the bases before Tyler Moore grounded into a force out that plated Werth to make it 1-0 Nats.
Then, Scott Hairston walked and Mets catcher Anthony Recker came up with a passed ball as Ramos came home to make it 2-0.
With two outs and the bases loaded once more, Wheeler hit Anthony Rendon with a pitch to hand the Nats a 3-0 lead.
The inning would turn out to be Wheeler’s ugliest of the night, and the Mets’ relief tossed three innings of scoreless baseball, but Gonzalez and the Washington bullpen never let up.
Lefthander Matt Thornton allowed no runs on two hits in the eighth, and Drew Storen tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the Nationals’ victory.
THE GOOD: For most of the season, the Nats have seemingly waited for Gio Gonzalez to perform like Gio Gonzalez again. And, as of late, he has done exactly that – with Thursday night’s outing amounting to his best performance yet. On the heels of Gonzalez’s phenomenal delivery, the Nats’ magic number for the best record in the National League is just one.
THE BAD: The Nats went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine base runners.
THE STATS: 3 R, 6 H, 4 BB, 10 K, 1-for-11 RISP, 9 LOB