After a heartbreaking loss to the Milwaukee Brewers Friday night, the Washington Nationals got just what the doctor ordered: a dominating pitching performance from Gio Gonzalez and plenty of offense — including three home runs — as the Nats cruised to a 10-4 victory before a sellout crowd of 40,493 on a spectacularly beautiful fall Saturday afternoon.
The win stretches the Nats (92-59) lead in the division to six games, pending the result of Saturday night’s game for the Atlanta Braves against the Phillies. The Nats “Magic Number” to clinch the division fell to six.
Gonzalez (W, 20-8, 2.84) was masterful in his complete dominance of the Brewers. He allowed just three hits and one walk over seven innings. Both runs were unearned as a result of Bryce Harper’s error in center field. The performance was much-welcomed in the wake of Friday night’s nailbiter and ninth inning collapse. Washington built a 9-0 lead after four innings, batting around in both the third and fourth innings.
“This couldn’t have been accomplished without this team,” Gonzalez told the media after the game (courtesy MASNSports.com). “These guys have been unbelievable. It doesn’t feel like 20 wins for myself, it feels like 20 wins for the team.”
“This was like a childhood dream. But at the same time, to do it with a team that’s in first place makes it that muhc better.”
The only point of concern for Gonzalez was in the seventh inning, when he caught a spike on his plant foot and fell face-first into the grass just in front of the pitching mound. He layed there, splayed out on the grass for a moment, motionless, drawing manager Davey Johnson and the training staff. But the only thing Gio had bruised was his pride, as he doffed his cap to the crowd upon return to the hill. On his next pitch, he completed a strikeout of Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado to prove his health.
“Pitching is the main thing in baseball,” manager Davey Johnson said. “When you win 20, that’s the mark of a Cy Young. It’s just everything.”
Asked if he thought Gonzalez should be considered the front runner for the coverted award, Johnson replied, “Hands down.”
The hit parade started in the third against Brewers starter Wily Peralta (L, 2-1, 3.04). Back-to-back one out doubles by Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper brought home the first run, and after a Ryan Zimmerman strikeout Adam LaRoche scored Harper with a double of his own. LaRoche later scored to make it 3-0 when Brewers shortstop Jean Segura threw away a ball trying for a force play on Ian Desmond’s infield single.
The Nats batted around again in the fourth on reliever Livan Hernandez. They got six runs off the former “Mr. National” on a pair of three-run home runs by Ryan Zimmerman (23) and Ian Desmond (24). Seven straight Nats reached base against their three-time Opening Day starter.
Adam LaRoche capped the Nats scoring in the six, launching his team-leading 32nd home run of the season, tying his career high set in 2006.
THE TAKEAWAY: Friday night’s loss stung in the way it went down, but with the Braves loss as well it didn’t really impact things in a larger sense. The Nats certainly didn’t let it linger as they came right back in this one to spank the Brewers, quickly and efficiently. Gio was dominant, the bats provided plenty of offense, and they inched closer to their stated goal of winning the N.L. East. And the best news was that Davey didn’t have to go to the pen in a high-leverage situation, allowing Michael Gonzalez and Christian Garcia to have late inning duties due to the large lead.
THE GOOD: Adam LaRoche went 3-for-4 with a single, double and homer. His homer represented his 98th RBI of the season. Ian Desmond went 3-for-4 as well, and Davey said in the post-game he was looking outside all the way on his homer off Livo. “[Desmond] is in a good spot right now,” Johnson said with a smile to complete his press conference.
THE BAD: Kurt Suzuki went 0-for-4 with a GIDP.
THE UGLY: Livo’s performance. “Mr. National” was victimized by the Nats today, pounded into submission. It’s not surprising that the Nats would knock him around, knowing his repertoire as well as they do. In five appearances this year against his old club, Livo has a 13.50 ERA with 17 baserunners in 7 1/3 innings, including three home runs allowed.
THE STATS: 13 hits, 6 BBs, 7 Ks. 5-for-11 with RISP, 7 LOB, 1 GIDP. E: Harper (6), no DPs.
NEXT GAME: Sunday at 1:35 pm against the Brewers. Chien-Ming Wang (2-3, 6.92) hosts Yovani Gallardo (16-8, 3.59).