Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Lefties Gio Gonzalez and Mark Buehrle square off tonight at Marlins Park.
Within the hour, Buehrle signed a four-year, $58 million contract with the Marlins, leaving Rizzo and the Nationals to acquire a starting pitcher from somewhere else. Turns out that pitcher came from Oakland. His name was Gio Gonzalez, and he cost the Nats four top prospects in a trade.
Seven months later, the Nationals have no complaints about how the situation resolved itself. And tonight, they'll send Gonzalez (an All-Star with a 12-3 record and 2.92 ERA) to the mound against none other than Buehrle (8-8 with a 3.25 ERA) in a juicy twist of fate.
Plenty of updates to come, so please check back...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at MIAMI MARLINS
Where: Marlins Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Michael Morse
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Tyler Moore
C Jesus Flores
LHP Gio Gonzalez
SS Jose Reyes
2B Omar Infante
1B Carlos Lee
RF Justin Ruggiano
3B Hanley Ramirez
CF Emilio Bonifacio
LF Donovan Solano
C John Buck
LHP Mark Buehrle
HP Eric Cooper, 1B Marty Foster, 2B D.J. Reyburn, 3B Jeff Kellogg (cc)
6:30 p.m. -- Some pregame news to pass along: Sean Burnett says he's been dealing with tightness in his left elbow for about six weeks. He doesn't believe it's anything serious and says it actually feels better when he pitches, but Davey Johnson didn't rule out the possibility of a DL stint. Full story here.
7:05 p.m. -- Pudge Rodriguez is here tonight being honored by the Marlins for his role in helping them win the 2003 World Series. He and Jeff Conine just re-created the final out of the NLDS from that year against the Giants, with Conine firing a pretty decent throw from shallow left field to the plate. Sadly, J.T. Snow wasn't here to plow over Pudge, because that really would have made the whole thing authentic. I chatted for a few minutes with Pudge, who seems to be adjusting to retirement quite well. He did acknowledge that the Nats called him in May after Wilson Ramos tore his ACL to see if he'd have interest coming back to D.C. "I told my agent to tell them: Leave the old man alone!" Rodriguez said with a laugh.
7:10 p.m. -- And we're underway with a quick strike from Mark Buehrle to Danny Espinosa. Get used to that; Buehrle is one of the fastest workers in baseball.
7:15 p.m. -- See what I mean? Buehrle was all business in the top of the first. He did surrender a two-out double to Ryan Zimmerman, who continues to rake at the plate. But he still needed only 13 pitches (10 strikes) to get through the inning, and that included strikeouts of both Danny Espinosa and Michael Morse.
7:24 p.m. -- What a battle between Gio Gonzalez and Jose Reyes to kick off the bottom of the first. Reyes kept fouling off everything Gio fired up there. Finally on the 13th pitch of the at-bat, he popped up to first base. Gio breathed a sigh of relief, then set down Omar Infante and Carlos Lee on five pitches, giving him a total of 18 for the inning.
7:34 p.m. -- Six up, six down for Gio, who has his "A" curveball going tonight. Caught both Justin Ruggiano and Hanley Ramirez looking at it in the bottom of the second. It remains scoreless as we head to the third.
7:40 p.m. -- Mark Buehrle, doing what Mark Buehrle does best. He's needed a total of 26 pitches (20 strikes) to face 11 batters so far over three innings. The Nats even have three hits off him. The guy just throws so many strikes, they can't afford to take pitches and fall behind in the count.
7:46 p.m. -- Nine up and nine down for Gio, who is in complete control tonight. His curveball is simply devastating, producing five strikeouts. We go to the fourth, still a scoreless game.
7:56 p.m. -- And there's the first hit of the night for the Marlins, a solid single up the middle by Reyes to lead off the fourth.
8:04 p.m. -- And there's the first run of the night as Carlos Lee sends an RBI single to center, scoring Reyes from second. Gio seemed really preoccupied with Reyes on the bases and may have paid the price for it. That said, his curveball continues to be devastating, and he's benefiting from a wide strike zone from Eric Cooper. If Gio can keep getting the pitch called a strike ... look out. Marlins 1, Nats 0 after four.
8:19 p.m. -- And the Nats strike right back in the top of the fifth, thanks to Ian Desmond's baserunning. He beat out a bunt down the first-base line, diving to elude Lee's tag. Then he appeared to be picked off by Buehrle, only to veer to his left and get in the way of Lee's throw to second base. Honestly, Desmond should have been called out for obstruction on that play, but he caught a break. It paid off, too, because he proceeded to get a great jump on Jesus Flores' broken-bat single to left, scoring the Nats' first run of the night. They could have had more after Buehrle loaded the bases for Ryan Zimmerman. Turns out Zim is human, though, because he struck out on a 2-2 breaking ball in the dirt. So we go to the bottom of the fifth of what is now a 1-1 game.
8:29 p.m. -- And the Marlins retake the lead thanks to some well-executed small ball. Emilio Bonifacio (remember him?) beat out a drag bunt, then took second on Donovan Solano's sacrifice bunt. John Buck's single to right-center then brought him home and put Miami back on top, 2-1, as we head to the sixth.
8:46 p.m. -- Looks like Gio is done, as Davey gives him a pat on the back following the bottom of the sixth. He's at 93 pitches and has struck out nine without walking a batter.
8:55 p.m. -- Eric Cooper gave Gio the outside corner all night, so it's only fair he just gave it to Buehrle as well on a borderline curveball to Espinosa in a big spot in the top of the seventh (two outs, tying runner on third). The Nats can't push across their second run of the night, so it remains 2-1 Marlins at the stretch.
9:09 p.m. -- Craig Stammen comes through with a big double-play ball off the bat of pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs to end the seventh. More importantly, the Nats managed to get Buehrle out of the game. So they'll have a chance to rally against the Marlins' suspect bullpen.
9:21 p.m. -- Nothing doing in the top of the eighth. Bryce Harper struck out against Randy Choate for the second straight night. Steve Cishek then entered and got Ryan Zimmerman to tap a comebacker and Michael Morse to watch strike three on the outside corner. Three Ks tonight for Morse, who has not looked so good. The Nats are down to their last three outs, still trailing 2-1.
9:33 p.m. -- Stammen pulled off the high-wire act again, stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth. So we go to the ninth, and Cishek will remain in the game in search of a five-out save. He'll face LaRoche, Desmond and Bernadina.
9:43 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Bernadina sent a two-out single to center and then stole second, but the Nats can't get anything else going in the ninth and they wind up falling 2-1 to the Marlins. And because the Braves beat the Mets earlier today, their lead in the NL East is down to three games.