After the marathon game Saturday night, including a nearly four-hour rain delay then extra innings, the Washington Nationals could have used a crisp, clean outing from starter Gio Gonzalez.
They didn’t get it.
Gonzalez was shaky and the offense was almost non-existant, as the Nats fell to the Atlanta Braves 3-1 at Turner Field. The loss drops the Nats lead over the Braves to 3 1/2 games in the N.L. East.
Gonzalez allowed just two runs, but gave up six hits and four walk in just 4 2/3 innings. He needed 111 pitches to record the 14 outs, though eight of those came via strikeout.
The Nats got on the board first, as Ian Desmond socked his 18th homer of the season to right center field. But that’s all they got.
Atlanta drew even in the bottom of the inning. Justin Upton clubbed a 3-2 changeup to straight-away left field for his 21st homer of the year. It also marked Upton’s 1000th hit and 500th RBI of his career.
Gonzalez (L, 6-9, 4.00) then proceeded to allow two home base runners in the inning, but escaped unscathed — except for his elevated pitch count.
That high pitch count finally got to him in the fifth.
Emilio Bonifacio lead off with a bunt single and Gonzalez walked Tommy LaStella, though the rookie second baseman tried to sacrifice. Freddie Freeman grounded into a 4-6-3 double play and it looked like Gonzalez might escape danger again.
But he issued another walk, this time to Upton. Jason Heyward then hit a grounder to Danny Espinosa, playing in short right field on an extreme shift, but Adam LaRoche also tried for the grounder and Gonzalez failed to cover first base. Heyward was safe and Bonifacio scored on the play without a throw.
Braves starter Alex Wood cruised. Over 7 1/3 innings, he gave up just the Desmond homer, four other hits, and three walks, striking out 12 along the way.
Atlanta picked up another run in the eighth off Jerry Blevins in his second inning of work. He sandwiched a walk to Chris Johnson between strikeouts of Heyward and Gerald Laird. But consecutive hits by Ramiro Pena and pinch-hitter Evan Gattis — both right-handed hitters – pushed the Braves’ third run across.
Blevins is allowing a .321/.400/.449 slash line to right-handed hitters this season.
The Nationals have a much-needed day off Monday before starting a three-game series with the New York Mets on Tuesday at Citifield. Doug Fister (11-3, 2.49) pitches for the Nats. The Mets have not announced their starter.
NATS NOTES: The Nats recalled OF Michael Taylor from AAA-Syracuse and placed OF Steven Souza on the 15-day D.L. with a “left shoulder contusion” sustained when he slammed into the right field wall chasing a home run in Friday night’s game.
- Denard Span went 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to 14 games and on-base streak to 36 games.
- LaRoche had a rough night, striking out all four times at bat, stranding five runners.
- Jayson Werth, nursing a litany of injuries, went 0-for-1 but walked three times.