WASHINGTON – Gio Gonzalez deserved better on Thursday at Nationals Park.
The Nationals left-hander should have been celebrating his first win as a Washington National but instead he watched from the dugout as Brad Lidge blew a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning but saw his team keep their composure and pull out a 3-2 win in 10 innings as Ryan Zimmerman scored from third on a wild pitch by former Oriole Alfredo Simon.
Gonzalez went seven innings, allowed just two hits while striking out seven and also came through with his first Major League hit in the fifth inning off Mat Latos which helped start a two-run inning.
Gonzalez smiled as he turned to the dugout heading to first base almost as if to say, “Hey, look at that, guys.”
“I was happy because I was looking at the other pitchers, just smiling about it,” Gonzalez said. “We have some great hitting pitchers so I was just glad to get the first one out of the way and hopefully, start a trend with the pitchers.”
Later in the inning with the bases loaded and two outs, Adam LaRoche’s two-run single gave the Nats the lead.
After spending his first four seasons in the American League with the Athletics, Gonzalez often commented during spring training that hitting and running the bases would be a huge adjustment for him because he never had to do it before. How would he respond to a long inning of having to be out on the base paths? He passed the test in the top of the sixth as he got Drew Stubbs to fly to right field. He then struck out Zack Cozard and Joey Votto swinging.
Gonzalez then had a three up, three down seventh. Nice way to end the day. 97 pitches, 64 for strikes and at least for this day, Gonzalez proved to everyone why the Nationals sent four prospects to the Oakland in the off season to acquire his services.
“Today was not all about me,” he said. “It was all about our defense which did a great job, offense, we showed a lot of life today and (Wilson) Ramos did a great job behind the dish. There was so much credit you could give to this game and this victory goes to all the players today.”
The guy who felt the worst after the big win was Lidge.
“Just the way Gio pitched, he deserved the win and unfortunately, I couldn’t keep the lead for him,” said Lidge. “He had an outstanding game and the guys came through and bailed me out and we were able to scratch one across there. If we keep winning I’ll be happy but I know I need to do a little better job than I did today.”
The Nationals are 5-2 to start the season but in the last two games, other than LaRoche’s two-run single, the Nats have scored three runs on wild pitches, two more on bases-loaded walks and one on an RBI groundout.
“I expect us to get some hits with runners in scoring position,” said manager Davey Johnson. “We haven’t done that as well as we are capable of doing. I like the way we are swinging the bats and hopefully we’ll break out and have a laugher…soon.”
Despite injuries to Michael Morse who will be down another six weeks after re-aggravating his right lat muscle, Zimmerman says he fully expects the Nationals offense to come around sooner than later.
“Our offense is a little banged up but we feel like we can battle through this until some guys come back but we still feel really talented,” he said. “Like I said, we haven’t done a good job with runners in scoring position early but we are only a week into the season. If we had gotten off hot and we don’t do well in June, we wouldn’t be talking about it so it’s one of those things that go up and down during the year.”
At least on Thursday, what went wrong in this game, turned out right in the home opener.