The Washington Nationals (33-33) managed just two hits in their series-opening 2-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians (33-33) at Progressive Field Friday night, thanks in part to what could have been deemed interference by Jason Kipnis in the ninth.
Gio Gonzalez (ND, 3-3) allowed just three hits and one home run over seven innings pitched. He walked four batters and struck out eight, throwing 73 of 127 pitches for strikes. Entering Friday’s matchup, Gonzalez boasted a 5-0 career record against Cleveland with an 0.72 ERA.
But, as has so often been the case, the Nats’ bats remained quiet. Their first – and only – run off right-hander Justin Masterson (W, 8-5) came in the third inning via two walks, a single and a wild pitch that brought home Kurt Suzuki.
In the bottom of the fourth, Ryan Raburn found a more efficient answer for the Indians – a solo shot to right center to tie the game 1-1.
From then on, it became a pitcher’s duel.
Gonzalez retired the side in the fifth before walking three straight batters in the sixth with two outs. Fortunately for the Nats, he regained control against Mark Reynolds in time to pitch out the jam unscathed.
In the seventh, Gonzalez walked one more batter – also with two outs – but prevented the Indians from threatening.
Tyler Clippard took the mound in the eighth, allowing back-to-back singles to Jason Kipnis and NIck Swisher before striking out Raburn. Carlos Santana drew a one-out walk to load the bases but Reynolds chased a strike-three four-seamer before Michael Brantley lined out to end the inning.
The Nats failed to reach base in the top of the ninth and, in the bottom of the inning, Stubbs’s gutsy base-running turned the lights out on the Nats.
WIth one out, Stubbs and Michael Bourn hit back-to-back singles off Fernando Abad (L, 0-1). Kipnis hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Adam LaRoche and Stubbs came home from third, beating Suzuki’s tag.
On the play, however, it appeared Kipnis darted onto the grass – blocking LaRoche’s line of sight – and forcing the throw to miss the mark. Regardless of whether or not the play should have been rendered interference, the home plate umpire called Stubbs safe, thereby awarding the Indians a 2-1 victory over the Nationals.
THE GOOD: Gio Gonzalez was sharp yet again. Whatever the reason may be for his continued success against the Cleveland Indians – and at Progressive FIeld – he fired on all cylinders Friday night. His fastball darted all over the strike zone and, on three separate occasions, he retired the side in order.
THE BAD: For the 12th time this season, the Nationals are back at .500.
THE UGLY: The Nationals tallied just two hits against the .500 Cleveland Indians – a single by Ryan Zimmerman in the first inning and a single by Steve Lombardozzi in the third. Worse yet, they struck out a whopping 13 times. After Lombo’s single, they managed to reach base only three more times, all via walks.
THE STATS: 0 R, 2 H, 4 BB, 13 K, 0-for-3 with RISP, 5 LOB
NEXT GAME: Saturday at 7:15 p.m. ET – RHP Jordan Zimmermann (9-3, 2.00) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (3-4, 5.33) at Progressive Field