GENARO C. ARMAS
AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Gio Gonzalez’s changeup confused the Milwaukee Brewers.
The left-hander kept his off-speed pitch down in the strike zone. He missed some spots and got into a couple jams, but otherwise the Washington Nationals starter had what amounts to a banner day against one of top-hitting teams in the majors.
Gonzalez combined with three relievers to hold Milwaukee to three hits, and Adam LaRoche hit a three-run homer in Washington’s 3-0 win Monday night.
“It shocked everybody. I had never in my career (had) seen as many changeups as I see today,” Brewers cleanup hitter Carlos Gomez said. “Make big pitches and they got outs today. Good for Washington.”
Especially for Gonzalez (4-4), who walked four and struck out five in six innings. It was an encouraging outing in his second start following a monthlong stint on the disabled list for left shoulder inflammation.
“It’s a huge accomplishment coming back, especially with a team like that,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to make a statement with the rotation and try to be a part of it.”
Gonzalez outdueled Matt Garza (4-5), who struck out seven in seven innings but allowed LaRoche’s homer to straightaway center in the third. Tyler Clippard struck out the side in the ninth for his first save.
Clippard opened the ninth by getting Gomez swinging. He finished 0 for 4, snapping a 35-game streak of reaching base and a career-best 18-game hitting streak.
Gomez contemplated dropping a bunt in the ninth to save his streaks with the infield playing back.
Not his style in that situation, though.
“You know, I’m going to defend (the streaks) like a man. Just be me and enjoy the game. I had the opportunity to drop a bunt but I wasn’t going to do it,” the upbeat Gomez said. “The last at-bat made me feel better for tomorrow.”
Could have used bright spot on Monday, too. But he flied out to left with two outs and the bases loaded to end the third, the Brewers’ best chance to break through at the plate.
“It gave (the Nationals) some more life,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez left after throwing a season-high 114 pitches, his night ending after getting Khris Davis to ground into a 6-4-3 double play following a walk to Aramis Ramirez with one out in the sixth.
Gonzalez flashed a wide smile and got a hug from a coach in the dugout following a satisfying performance. Clippard closed the game after regular stopper Rafael Soriano had worked the previous three nights.
Garza, the Brewers’ big offseason acquisition, got a confidence boost after escaping a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the second without giving up a run. But he couldn’t get out of the third unscathed after walking Anthony Rendon and allowing a single to No. 3 hitter Jayson Werth to bring up LaRoche.
That’s trouble in Miller Park, where LaRoche has homered in three straight games dating to last season. On Monday, he hit a full-count slider off the black wall beyond the fence in center field 400 feet from the plate.
“In that spot, you’re really just trying to hit something hard and hit something in the air. It just happened to go out of the park,” LaRoche said. “It was one of the few mistakes he made.”
Garza pounced off the mound as LaRoche rounded the bases, angrily swinging his glove down into his right hand.
NOTES: Nationals manager Matt Williams was ejected after an argument with home plate umpire Mark Wegner after the top of the second. Espinosa was called out on strikes in that inning on a fastball from Garza along the outside corner. … Nationals OF Bryce Harper (left thumb) began a rehab stint Monday at Class-A Potomac, where he started in left field and played three innings, as planned. Harper finished 1 for 1 with a single, walk and run scored. C Wilson Ramos, also rehabbing at Potomac from a strained right hamstring, went 3 for 4 with a three-run homer. … Brewers RF Ryan Braun started and went 1 for 4 a day after a minor left ankle sprain during Sunday’s 6-5 win at Colorado. Manager Ron Roenicke said closer Francisco Rodriguez was fine after he hurt his left ankle in the same game. … Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman (5-4) opposes Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo (5-4) on Tuesday night.
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