August 20, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 81 Review: Nats’ offense ignites in series win over Mets

The Washington Nationals have struggled all season with providing run support to even the most potent weapons in their pitching rotation. Sunday afternoon, in what officially marked the halfway point of the season, the Nats’ bats came alive off rookie Zack Wheeler (L, 1-1) and the New York Mets.

Gio Gonzalez (W, 5-3) pitched seven phenomenal innings, allowing just three hits and two walks and striking out seven to keep the Mets scoreless. Long before Ian Krol took the mound in his relief, however, Gonzalez carried a five-run lead, thanks to a four-run second inning sparked by a monster shot by Adam LaRoche.

Following LaRoche’s leadoff home run, Jayson Werth walked and Ian Desmond doubled him home before himself scoring on a Kurt Suzuki single. By the time Denard Span powered a two-out double to center field, the Nationals were sitting pretty with a four-run lead.

In the third, Werth’s eighth homer of the season made it 5-0 Nationals, which is how things stood until the eighth.

In the meantime, Gonzalez worked his way to 119 total pitches – 84 of which were strikes, marking a career high for the 27-year-old. With Sunday’s outing, Gonzalez brought his ERA for the month of June down to just 1.79.

The only trouble Gonzalez ran into happened in the seventh inning after Zach Lutz walked and Josh Satin singled to give the Mets runners on first and second with no outs. Gonzalez, however, regained control, forcing John Buck to line out and Juan Lagares to pop out before Omar Quintanilla grounded to short to end the inning.

In the off-chance insurance runs were needed to power Washington past Mets reliever Brandon Lyon, the Nationals came up with plenty in the eighth. Perhaps more noteworthy was the fact that all of Washington’s six runs in the eighth inning crossed the plate with two outs already recorded.

Roger Bernadina’s ground-rule double plated Jayson Werth for the first run tallied in the inning and Kurt Suzuki’s third homer of the season brought the Nats to an 8-0 lead.

Pinch-hitter Chad Tracy drew a walk and advanced to third on a double by Denard Span, and both runners scored on Anthony Rendon’s double before New York called upon Scott Rice to take the mound.

Rice couldn’t record the third out without allowing the Nats to do some more damage. Ryan Zimmerman singled to bring home Rendon and power Washington to an 11-0 lead.

To add salt to the Mets’ wounds, Ian Desmond socked his 15th homer of the season in the top of the ninth off Anthony Recker, the Mets’ backup catcher. Desmond’s two-run shot off an 81 MPH “fastball” put the Nats up 13-0.

Washington was one strike away from completing the shutout in the bottom of the ninth when Krol gave up a two-run homer to Buck to put New York on the board. The rookie reliever had no problem forcing Juan Lagares to fly out on the first pitch he saw in the next at-bat, however, and Washington settled for a 13-2 win.


THE GOOD:
 Gio Gonzalez took the spotlight away from Zack Wheeler’s Citi Field debut, in what was perhaps Gonzalez’s most commanding outing of the season thus far. He threw 84 of his 119 total pitches for strikes and regained control in the seventh inning at a time when the Mets could have scored a run or two without really posing a threat.

Sunday’s game marked only the second this season in which the Nationals have scored 10 runs or more in a single game, but one could imagine the 13-2 win offers hope of a much-needed midseason spark.

Both Ian Desmond and Kurt Suzuki contributed three RBIs to the Nationals’ efforts Sunday. Werth crossed home plate a total of four times against the Mets’ pitching staff. Even more, all but Gio Gonzalez, Ian Krol and pinch-hitter Chad Tracy had a hit – and Tracy contributed a walk and a run scored.

Washington also tallied a total of eight two-out RBIs and went 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position. In a game in which the Nationals tallied 13 hits and four walks, they left a team total of just five men on base.

THE BAD: Ian Krol was one more swing-and-a-miss away from keeping the Mets scoreless, but he, instead, allowed a two-run homer to John Buck.

THE STATS: 13 R, 4 HR, 13 H, 4 BB, 6 K, 5 LOB

NEXT GAME: Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park – RHP Yovani Gallardo (6-7, 4.20) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (11-3, 2.28)

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