On a sunny Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, the Washington Nationals took Game 1 of their doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs, 3-0.
After seeing 18 total runs between the two teams in Games 1 and 2 of their four-game set, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Beeler treated the Chicago faithful to a pitching duel that saw just three runs and 10 combined hits.
In his third start since coming off of the DL for shoulder inflammation, Gonzalez put together arguably his best start of the season. In seven innings of work, he gave up two hits, no runs and struck out seven ,all on 99 pitches. He fell into a groove early and Chicago’s offense was nonexistent throughout the game.
Gonzalez needed just 35 pitches to get through the first eight batters of the game. It was not until a Dallas Beeler single with two away in the bottom of the third inning that Chicago had a baserunner.
On the mound for Chicago, Beeler put on quite a show in his major-league debut. In six innings, he gave up just four hits, one unearned run, three walks and six strikeouts. Through the first two innings, Beeler was perfect. In the top of the third, Nate McLouth (2-for-4) singled for Washington’s first base runner. However, a double play and a groundout ended the inning.
In the top of the fourth, Washington had their first opportunity to put runs on the board. After Denard Span (2-for-3, BB) walked and Anthony Rendon (3-for-4, RBI) singled to lead off the inning, Ryan Zimmerman (0-for-2, 2 BB) grounded into a fielders choice to put runners at the corners with one out. Adam LaRoche (0-for-2, RBI, BB) lined out and Ian Desmond (0-for-4) flied out to end the inning and strand Span.
The bottom half of the frame saw two highlight reel plays for Span in centerfield. Justin Ruggiano hit a 2-0 pitch deep to centerfield, causing Span to run full speed toward the wall. With his back to the ball and the wind carrying it to his right, Span leapt and caught the ball, crashing into the wall. After Anthony Rizzo walked, Span then caught a fly ball on the run and threw it over to first base in time to double up Rizzo and end the inning.
Two innings later, Washington broke the scoreless tie in the top of the sixth.
With Rendon on second and two away, a passed ball by Cubs catcher Jeff Baker moved him to third. Zimmerman then drew a four-pitch walk to bring LaRoche to the plate with a man 90 feet from home. A wild pitch by Beeler then moved Zimmerman to second, but more importantly scored the game’s first run as Rendon crossed the plate on the play.
Over his final two innings, Gonzalez allowed just one runner to reach base on a walk. He was pulled from the game after a 1-2-3 seventh inning for relief pitcher Tyler Clippard. Before Clippard got to work in the eighth, Washington padded their lead.
With Justin Grimm in to pitch for Chicago, Span singled with one out. Rendon then scored Span with his sixth triple of the year for the RBI. After Zimmerman took his second walk of the day, LaRoche hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Rendon.
As they turned to their bullpen, Washington had a 3-0 lead.
Clippard and Rafael Soriano then combined to give up just one hit over the final two innings. Gonzalez earned the win, Clippard was awarded a hold and Soriano picked up his 19th save of the season in the 3-0 victory.
The nightcap of the doubleheader will feature Blake Treinen for Washington against Chicago’s Jeff Samardjiza. First pitch will be at 7:15 PM EST on FOX.
Brian Skinnell is a sports writer born and raised in the Washington, D.C.-metro area and covers the Washington Nationals, Wizards and MiLB for District Sports Page. He’s had work published on Yahoo Sports and Rant Sports, and has made several radio show appearances across the country to discuss his works. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!