The Washington Nationals enjoyed a rare day off from the mundanity of spring training on Tuesday, but not all Nats were out playing golf or spending time with family.
The Nats star left-handed pitcher, All-Star Gio Gonzalez, made his fourth start of the spring, only this time it was in service for his country, as he started for Team USA against Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. The Hialeah, FL native (of Cuban descent) made his appearance at Marlins Stadium outside of Miami, a stone’s throw from where Gonzalez grew up.
The lefty was simply dominant against the Puerto Rican team, made up of a handful of MLB players and minor leaguers. Gonzalez went five shutout innings, throwing 48 of his 69 pitches for strikes. He gave up three hits, did not walk a batter and struck out five in the outing.
San Francisco Giants outfielder Angel Pagan led off the first with a single to center off Gonzalez. Gonzalez got Irving Falu (Royals farmhand) to pop up a sacrifice attempt to Joe Mauer for out No. 1. Pagan stole second, but Gio set down White Sox outfielder Alex Rios on a pop-up to short and Carlos Beltran on a deep fly out to center that the Orioles’ Adam Jones tracked down.
In the second, Gonzalez set down Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and MLB veteran Mike Aviles on groundouts and struck out P.R. first baseman Martin Maldonado for an easy 1-2-3 inning. Eddie Rosario reached Gonzalez for a one-out single in the third, but he K’d Pagan and coaxed a grounder from Falu to David Wright at third to end the inning without a threat.
Beltran crushed a one-out double to center his second time up in the fourth inning, but Gonzalez left him stranded after a Molina groundout and Aviles fly out on a great running play by Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton.
In his final inning of work, Gonzalez was still sharp, retiring the bottom third of the Puerto Rican team in order, punctuating the outing by striking out Rosario to end his appearance.
The Nationals have a split-squad doubleheader on Wednesday, hosting the New York Mets and traveling to Kissimmee to face the Astros.