Gio Gonzalez gave up the most earned runs he has ever allowed as a member of the Washington Nationals in the District’s 11-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers Wednesday afternoon.
To make matters worse, Bryce Harper left the game early – in the eighth inning – after wincing on a big swing earlier in the day.
For a brief moment in time, it looked as though the Nationals would enjoy reprieve from the Justin Verlander of old during the last of their meetings with the Tigers this season. On “Christmas in July” Day at Comerica, Verlander gifted the Nats an early run in the first via walks to both Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman, a single by Harper and a Jayson Werth sacrifice fly.
And then, in an instant, Washington’s holiday was over.
Adam LaRoche struck out on four pitches in the next at-bat before Ian Desmond grounded out on a 79 MPH curveball to end the inning.
Gonzalez held the Tigers scoreless in the bottom of the inning, despite giving up a ground-rule double to Torii Hunter with one out.
Anthony Rendon, Kurt Suzuki and Steve Lombardozzi went down in order in the top of the second, allowing Victor Martinez just a quick break before stepping into the batter’s box to spark the havoc that would rain down upon the Nats.
Martinez singled and Jhonny Peralta doubled before Gonzalez retired Hernan Perez on strikes. Ramon Santiago doubled in the two base-runners to quickly give Detroit the lead before none other than Alex Avila stepped into the box.
Few teams have suffered at the hands of Avila like the Nats have this week alone. And yet, Avila homered to left to double the Tigers’ score before Gonzalez could force Austin Jackson to line out.
But, of course, it didn’t end there.
Hunter roped a 3-1 fastball over the left-field wall to make it 5-1 Tigers. Before the inning was over, Rendon went on to commit an error at third base until finally Prince Fielder struck out to close the book on the inning.
The Nats had a total of three base runners through the next two innings but, after a 1-2-3 third for Gonzalez, hell broke loose once more in the bottom of the fourth.
With one out, Avila walked – rightfully so – before Jackson singled him over to third. Hunter singled in Avila, Matt Tuiasosopo singled home Jackson, Fielder singled home Hunter, Martinez singled home Tuiasosopo and, with Ross Ohlendorf in to replace Gonzalez, Perez singled home Fielder.
And, just like that, the Tigers took a 10-1 lead before the start of the fifth inning.
Gonzalez’s outing fell just one run shy of his career-high allowed, but his final line of 3.1 IP, 11 H, 10 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR was nothing short of a complete disaster.
To add salt to the wounds, the Tigers tacked on another run in the seventh off Ian Krol when Avila singled and Hunter doubled him home.
Of course, at that point, it mattered to no one, save for perhaps Krol and MLB Fantasy owners of either Avila or Hunter.
When the Christmas celebrations finally came to a close, the Nats had tallied just five total hits compared to Detroit’s 15, as the season continues to creep ever closer to an end.
THE GOOD: There really isn’t anything worthy of a Nationals highlight-reel. Not in a game that opened with Justin Verlander loading the bases and closed with Washington going just 0-for-9 with RISP. And, certainly not in a game in which Bryce Harper left early feeling anything less than perfect. Yep, this one can be filed as a wash, through and through.
That is unless it’s worthy of note that Gio pitched a 1-2-3 third inning – in between two innings in which he allowed five runs to score.
THE BAD: Setting aside all of the aforementioned pitfalls, Adam LaRoche, Kurt Suzuki and Steve Lombardozzi went 0-for-4, and Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond went 0-for-3.
THE UGLY: Prior to Wednesday’s game, reports indicated that Davey Johnson said: “I don’t regret saying ‘World Series or bust.’ It’s looking more like a bust.” There are 54 games left to play, and while Natstown’s outlook might be grim, you would never want to hear your captain speak of abandoning ship so long before it’s officially sunk.
THE STATS: 1 R, 4 H, 1 E, 5 BB, 7 K, 8 LOB, 0-for-9 RISP
NEXT GAME: Friday, 8:10 p.m. at Miller Park – RHP Jordan Zimmermann (12-6, 3.19) vs. TBD