Last week’s five game losing streak is so far in the distance now, it’s like it happened last year. Or 2009.
The Washington Nationals, led by Gio Gonzalez’ first career complete-game shutout, beat the St. Louis Cardinals in every facet last night, winning a 10-0 laugher at Nationals Park before 29,499 red-clad faithful. They’ve beaten the Cardinals the last two nights by a combined score of 18-1.
Coupled with an Atlanta Braves loss to Philadelphia – in a game the Braves once held a 4-0 lead — the Nats (80-51, .611) extended their lead in the N.L. East to 6 1/2 games.
Gonzalez pitched one of his finest games all year. In winning his 17th game of the season, he didn’t give up a hit until his first batter in the fifth inning. All told, the lefty gave up five hits — only one for extra bases — and walked three, striking out eight. He got another eight outs via ground ball, including three double plays by his stellar defense.
With chants of “Let’s Go Gio” in the ninth inning, Gonzalez (W, 17-7, 3.10). threw the last of his 119 pitches to pinch-hitter Shane Robinson, who flied out to center field to end the game. Bryce Harper made sure to give Gonzalez the ball as he walked through the handshake line and Gonzalez gave his 19-year old center fielder a great big hug right in the middle of the diamond.
The Nats drew first blood with their first three hitters of the game. Jayson Werth (3-for-3, 2 BBs, 3 runs) drew a walk off Adam Wainright (L, 13-11, 3.90)) and took second on Bryce Harper’s single. Ryan Zimmerman hit a topper to third that acted like a sacrifice bunt, which set up Adam LaRoche’s two-run single.
Washington essentially put the game away in the third, batting around against Wainright. Three consecutive RBI singles at the bottom of the order by Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Kurt Suzuki put the Cards down by five. After Gonzalez’ sacrifice, Werth drove in another with a single. Wainright’s last batter was Harper, who he walked on a 3-2 pitch.
Zimmerman then greeted rookie reliever Trevor Rosenthal with a drive to the wall with the bases loaded, but the ball fell into Matt Holliday’s glove in the crook of the left field wall at the Jackie Robinson retired number tribute.
The Nats tacked on two more in the fifth. Rosenthal walked Suzuki and Werth, then Harper continued his hot-hitting ways with a two-out single off lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski. Zimmerman added insult to injury with a two-run line drive into the Nats bullpen in the eighth for his 17th home run of the season to push the Nats into double digits.
THE TAKEAWAY: The Nats have won three straight since the five game losing streak, by a combined score of 26-5. Manager Davey Johnson remarked after the game that when his lineup is complete it’s tough to pitch against as they feed off each other. It’s hard to argue. With Desmond and Morse out for the series with the Phillies things looked pretty bleak and it played out that way on the field. But once they returned to the lineup, the Nats have been firing on all cylinders. If you ask me, the Braves missed their golden opportunity to cut into the Nats division lead.
THE GOOD: Gonzalez. He was simply masterful. The Nats now head into the weekend games with Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg. It’s a tall task for the Cardinals just to earn a split in the series.
Also, Jayson Werth went 3-for-3 with two walks and scored three runs. You can’t ask for more than that out of your leadoff hitter. In fact, along with Harper and Zimmerman, the Nats 1-2-3 hitters went 7-for-12 with three walks and six runs scored.
THE BAD: Michael Morse went 0-for-5, stranding three.
THE UGLY: Adam Wainright’s box score. Six earned runs on nine hits and three walks in 2 2/3 innings. Sometimes you’re the windshield…
THE STATS: 12 hits, 5 NNs. 9 Ks. 6-for-11 with RISP, 7 LOB, no GIDP. No errors, 3 DPs.
NEXT GAME: Saturday at 4:05 against the Cardinals. Jordan Zimmermann (9-8, 2.63) hosts Kyle Lohse 914-2, 2.64).