After consecutive losses to the Atlanta Braves on Friday and Saturday, the Washington Nationals needed Gio Gonzalez to be the “stopper” on Sunday. He ended up being whatever the opposite of stopper is as the relentless Braves lineup pounded him and the Nats 9-0 before 39,389 under sun-drenched skies at Nationals Park.
The Braves (11-1) jumped all over Gonzalez early — and often. From the very first pitch, which B.J. Upton lined for a double, you could tell this one could end up being trouble. Gonzalez got uber-slumping Jason Heyward to fly out, but he walked Justin Upton before allowing a run-scoring double to janitor-turned-Babe Ruth Evan Gattis. Gio got Dan Uggla swinging for the second out, but couldn’t get the Braves to stall. Chris Johnson ripped a pitch right back through the box to score two more, and the Nats trailed 3-0 before they took a swing.
Gonzalez cruised through the second inning, but got into even more hot water in the third. Justin Upton led off with his seventh home run of the season, which leads the Major Leagues. Uggla drew a one-out walk and Johnson singled again, to set up Andrelton Simmons’ three-run home run, his first of the season.
Atlanta picked up two more in the sixth against reliever Zach Duke. Braves pitcher Paul Maholm hit a one-out single, took second on B.J. Upton’s single and scored on Heyward’s double to the right field corner. After an intentional walk to Justin Upton, B.J. scored on Gattis’ sacrifice fly to right.
The rest was all Maholm. The lefty was dominant against the Nats (7-5), going 7 2/3 innings to earn his third win of the young season. He blanked the Nats, allowing just four hits and a walk, striking out seven.
THE GOOD: Kurt Suzuki went 2-for-3. That’s all I got.
THE BAD: Danny Espinosa was hit on the right hand in his only at bat. He played another half-inning in the field before being lifted for Steve Lombardozzi. The team announced during the game Espinosa left with a “sore right hand”.
THE UGLY: Ryan Zimmerman made another throwing error, his third in as many games against the Braves. He also made several plays, including starting a pair of 5-4-3 double plays. Manager Davey Johnson insists Zimmerman is healthy but concedes his third baseman is still gaining strength in the surgically repaired shoulder.
THE STATS: 4 hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks. 1-for-5 with RISP, 7 LOB. E: Zimmerman (throw, 3); Lombardozzi (1).
NEXT GAME: Monday against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Jordan Zimmerman (2-0, 2.08) faces Wade LeBlanc (0-2, 3.27) at 7:10 pm.