The very same Gio Gonzalez (2-2) who one-hit the Cincinnati Reds just five days earlier unraveled in just four innings Tuesday night as the Washington Nationals (13-14) fell 8-1 to the Atlanta Braves (17-9) at Turner Field.
As such, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde saga continues to play out on the mound for the Nats.
If you had focused in on only select portions of Gonzalez’s stint, you could strategically craft a recap of his performance quite unlike the actual outcome. After all, Gonzalez fanned a season-high nine batters, five of whom struck out in four pitches or less. His fastball reached 94 MPH consistently, he picked off B.J. Upton at first base and threw 56 of 95 pitches for strikes.
Unfortunately for the Nationals – who have now lost nine straight against Atlanta, dating back to last season – Gonzalez also walked a career-high five batters, lacked the pitch movement needed to prevent the Braves from driving the ball and managed to cram all 95 pitches in just a half a day’s work.
The Braves set the tone early. Tim Hudson (3-1) – who emerged from Tuesday night’s matchup a 200-game winner, retired Denard Span, Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper in order to start things off.
In the bottom of the first, Andrelton Simmons homered to left on the second pitch Gonzalez tossed on the night. Gonzalez then sandwiched a Justin Upton walk with strikeouts to Chris Johnson and Freddie Freeman. Before Gonzalez could record the third out, Evan Gattis hit an RBI double to left, where Tyler Moore stood in for Jayson Werth, who sat out with hamstring and left ankle soreness.
In the bottom of the second, Hudson himself led off with a double to help set up RBI singles by Johnson and Freeman to make it 4-0 Atlanta.
Simmons led off successfully again in the fourth with a single and came home safely on a two-out single by Gattis to make it 5-0.
In the top of the fifth, three of the Nats’ traditional benchwarmers combined efforts to tally Washington’s only run. Tyler Moore led off with a double to right, took third on a ground out by Chad Tracy and scored on a Wilson Ramos grounder to make it 5-1.
Afterwards, Zach Duke took the mound for Washington in the bottom of the inning and retired both B.J. Upton and Reed Johnson back-to-back.
Then, as if Hudson hadn’t had enough insurance against the Nats’ quiet offense, he opted for the long ball himself with a home run to right.
Perhaps more importantly, the solo shot shook up Duke, who then allowed Simmons to single and Johnson to double before handing an intentional walk to Justin Upton. Freeman followed through with a bases-loaded single to plate Simmons and Johnson, giving the Braves an 8-1 lead.
Duke stayed on to retire six Braves in a row, but too much damage had already been done against the Nats’ sleeping offense. Henry Rodriguez entered in the bottom of the eighth to pith a near-perfect inning of relief, but the Nats failed to record a second run.
THE GOOD: There’s really not much to celebrate about the Nats’ 8-1 loss on Tuesday. Perhaps the best news coming out of Tuesday’s game was that Jayson Werth expects to return to the lineup soon?
THE BAD: The Nationals managed just three hits against the Atlanta Braves, a team they are set to face a dozen more times this season. Zach Duke did nothing to stop the bleeding in the fifth inning in a relatively low-pressure relief situation.
THE UGLY: The Nats have now lost nine straight against the Atlanta Braves, dating back to 2012.
THE STATS: 1 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K, 4 LOB, 0-for-5 RISP
NEXT GAME: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. RHP Jordan Zimmermann vs. LHP Paul Maholm