Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Gio Gonzalez takes the mound tonight against the Astros at Nationals Park.
As planned, Jayson Werth will slide over from right field to center field, sending Rick Ankiel to the bench. Werth also will hit cleanup. Xavier Nady and Mark DeRosa take over the two corner outfield positions. Johnson had planned to sit Adam LaRoche against lefties and use DeRosa at first base, but LaRoche has been so productive at the plate (and has stayed healthy) that Johnson doesn't feel like he needs a breather.
Gio Gonzalez, meanwhile, makes his third start of the season (his second at home) and will look to pitch the first-place Nationals to their seventh win in eight days. Plenty of updates and analysis to come...
HOUSTON ASTROS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 188
Weather: Mostly clear, 69 degrees, Wind 9 mph in from LF
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
CF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Mark DeRosa
LF Xavier Nady
C Jesus Flores
LHP Gio Gonzalez
CF Justin Maxwell
SS Jed Lowrie
LF J.D. Martinez
1B Carlos Lee
3B Chris Johnson
RF Travis Buck
C Chris Snyder
2B Jose Altuve
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
HP Bill Welke, 1B Tim Tschida (cc), 2B Chris Conroy, 3B Jeff Nelson
7:06 p.m. -- Ex-Nat and Terp Justin Maxwell tags Gio Gonzalez's first pitch of the night up the middle for a base hit, and just like that, we are underway.
7:13 p.m. -- Great throw from Jesus Flores to nail Maxwell trying to steal second, further confirmation that the catcher has finally come all the way back from his shoulder injury. Gonzalez wasn't as sharp as he would have liked to be in the top of the first; in addition to the leadoff single, he issued a two-out walk to J.D. Martinez. But he got Carlos Lee to ground out to end the inning with only 15 pitches (eight strikes) to his name.
7:20 p.m. -- Perhaps trying to alter his string of bad luck to begin this season, Ryan Zimmerman stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first to the strains of ... "Sister Christian"??? Desperate times, I suppose. Zim hit the ball solidly, but was denied by a nifty 6-4-3 double play from the Astros infield.
7:24 p.m. -- And Gio Gonzalez makes quick work of the Astros in the top of the second. He struck out the side, getting Chris Johnson and Chris Snyder swinging and Travis Buck looking. Good stuff there from the left-hander. It's still scoreless as we go to the bottom of the second.
7:37 p.m. -- Gio's curveball is on tonight. Struck out Rodriguez with that pitch in the top of the third for his fourth K of the game already. He's retired seven in a row since the Martinez walk in the first. Still scoreless here.
7:44 p.m. -- Gio nearly does the unthinkable, launching a deep drive to left-center in the bottom of the third. Sadly, Maxwell tracked it down at the warning track, but the crowd still gave the left-hander a huge ovation. And Gio, of course, couldn't keep himself from smiling as he trotted back to the dugout. We go to the fourth in a 0-0 game.
8:00 p.m. -- The Nats are on the board, even if they didn't exactly hit the ball hard in the bottom of the fourth. Jayson Werth blooped a base hit in front of a sliding Maxwell in shallow center field, then hustled his way to a double. Adam LaRoche followed with a blooper to shallow left field, the ball falling in between a sea of Astros. That brought Werth home and gave LaRoche his 13th RBI of the young season. 1-0 Nats as we go to the fifth.
8:11 p.m. -- And we're already going to the sixth. Both pitchers just cruising along, and hitters from both sides putting the ball in play very early in the count.
8:33 p.m. -- As good as Gio Gonzalez has been tonight, the Nationals have given him no margin for error whatsoever. You just hope that doesn't come back to haunt them. The left-hander takes the mound for the seventh, still leading 1-0 but perhaps having shown some signs of fatigue in the sixth.
8:39 p.m. -- Another 1-2-3 inning for Gio, with two more strikeouts added to the ledger. He's just been flat-out brilliant again tonight. Combine his numbers tonight with his numbers from his last start, and he's got a 14-inning scoreless streak going, having allowed four hits and two walks while striking out 15. Not bad. Not bad at all. Still 1-0 Nats at the seventh-inning stretch.
8:44 p.m. -- Tyler Clippard on to pitch the eighth, as Gio's night comes to an end. The Nats couldn't have asked for anything more out of their starter. Now they've got to hope the back end of the bullpen can finish this one off.
8:53 p.m. -- Clippard does his part. Despite a leadoff, bunt single by Jordan Schafer, he got out of the inning unscathed, stranding Schafer at second base by striking out Maxwell with a high heater. Still 1-0 going to the bottom of the eighth.
9:19 p.m. -- That's it. The Nats win yet another low-scoring nailbiter, this time by the slimmest of margins: 1-0. Gonzalez gets his first win. Brad Lidge gets his second save, stranding the tying and go-ahead runners on base. And the first-place Nationals are now 9-3, with a full 1 1/2-game lead on the Mets.