Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Gio Gonzalez seeks win No. 20 today at Nationals Park.
A win this afternoon against the Brewers, however, would be nice. Especially for Gio Gonzalez, who makes his second attempt at securing his 20th victory of the season. Gonzalez actually remains the only 19-game winner in the majors, so he's still got some cushion.
No surprises in Davey Johnson's lineup against Milwaukee rookie right-hander Wily Peralta. Johnson said he'll pretty much be going with all his regulars (aside from the catchers) until the Nationals clinch the division.
Updates to come...
MILWAUKEE BREWERS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WFED (1500 AM), WHFS (1580 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM-JIP), XM 184
Weather: Sunny, 80 degrees, Wind 15 mph out to CF
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP Gio Gonzalez
RF Norichika Aoki
2B Rickie Weeks
LF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez
1B Corey Hart
CF Carlos Gomez
C Martin Maldonado
SS Jean Segura
RHP Wily Peralta
HP D.J. Reyburn
1B Ted Barrett
2B Marvin Hudson
3B Tim McClelland (cc)
1:07 p.m. -- We are underway with a fastball from Gio Gonzalez to Norichika Aoki for strike one.
1:13 p.m. -- Good stuff from Gio in the top of the first. He struck out Aoki with a curveball that might very well have induced the ugliest-looking swing in the history of baseball. Seriously, Aoki had no clue what he was doing. Ryan Braun did poke a two-out single to left (what else is new?) but otherwise Gonzalez was fantastic, throwing eight of 11 pitches for strikes in a scoreless top of the first.
1:25 p.m. -- Hey, what do you know? Jayson Werth (after working the count full and fouling off a couple of pitches) drew a leadoff walk! Unfortunately, he was quickly erased trying to steal second base on the back end of a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play. So that kind of put a damper on the bottom of the first. No score as we head to the second.
1:44 p.m. -- Wily Peralta is all over the place so far today, but the Nats are doing their part to help out the Brewers rookie and bail him out. They had runners on second and third with nobody out in the bottom of the second, only to fail to score as Danny Espinosa swings at a fastball at his eyelids and Michael Morse is easily thrown out trying to tag up and score on Kurt Suzuki's flyball down the right-field line. Some very poor offensive execution there, so the game remains scoreless heading to the third.
2:00 p.m. -- Davey Johnson talked this morning about how much he likes the way Bryce Harper has been "gliding" out in center field to track down flyballs, not taking a bunch of choppy steps. Well, I think we just saw that in the top of the third, with Harper gliding his way back to deep center field to make what turned into an easy-looking catch of Rickie Weeks' drive. The kid has really improved out there, so much so that the Nats probably don't feel the need to go after a center fielder this winter. They're pretty much convinced Harper can play the position.
2:26 p.m. -- Hey, we're finally through the third inning! Only took 1 hour, 19 minutes to do it. The good news is that the Nats have taken a 3-0 lead after knocking around Peralta in the bottom of the third. Werth and Harper started it off with back-to-back doubles. Harper then pulled off a play only Bryce Harper makes: He strayed too far off second base, so Milwaukee catcher Martin Maldonado threw behind him. So Harper just took off for third and easily swiped the base. Brilliant. LaRoche later battled through a brilliant at-bat of his own, going from down 0-2 to foul off four pitches and ultimately rope a double into the right-field corner for his 97th RBI of the season. An error by shortstop Jean Segura allowed another run to score, and eventually Ron Roenicke decided he'd seen enough and yanked his rookie starter from the game. In from the bullpen strode (and I use that term lightly) a familiar figure: Livan Hernandez. The big guy got a nice ovation from the crowd, then he dazzled us all with a Bugs Bunny special: a 62 mph curveball that Suzuki popped up to end the inning. After all that, the Nats lead 3-0.
2:49 p.m. -- Well, it looks like Livan Hernandez will help lead the Nationals to a division title after all. Just not the way he wanted to do it. The big guy just got hammered in the bottom of the fourth inning, giving up six runs while recording only one out. He gave up a three-run homer to Zimmerman (a round of cortisone shots for everyone!) and then another three-run homer to Desmond. Livo has now made five appearances against the Nats this season. His ERA: 13.50. He's put 17 men on base in only 7 1/3 innings, and he's served up three homers. It's tough to watch, but the Nats will gladly take a 9-0 lead after four.
3:05 p.m. -- Wow, wait til you hear this one: Gio Gonzalez just struck out his 200th batter of the season. He's the first Washington pitcher to do that since ... Walter Johnson in 1916!
3:21 p.m. -- So much for the shutout. And so much for all that praise of Harper's play in center field. He just gift-wrapped a couple of runs for the Brewers in the top of the sixth by getting a bad jump on one ball over his head and then letting another deflect off his glove for an error. It's now 9-2.
3:26 p.m. -- Er, make that 10-2 as LaRoche goes deep for the 32nd time this season, matching his career high. He's got 98 RBI, two shy of his career high. And get this: The Nationals' 1-through-7 hitters today have reached base in 20 of 26 plate appearances. That's beyond ridiculous.
3:41 p.m. -- Yikes, Gio just got a spike caught on the mound, fired a pitch to the backstop and wound up lying prone on the ground, face down. He appeared to wince after he finally got up, perhaps feeling something in his back, and Davey Johnson and a trainer rushed to the mound. But he's fine and stayed in the game. He even struck out Maldonado on his very next pitch and then deftly fielded a comebacker. So everything appears to be fine. He's done for the day, though, with a final line of: 7 IP, 3 HR, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. If the Nats bullpen can record six outs before allowing eight runs, Gio will get his 20th win.
3:56 p.m. -- Michael Gonzalez strikes out Nyjer Morgan to end the top of the eighth. The fans seemed to enjoy that. Still 10-2.
4:12 p.m. -- It's over. The Nats win 10-4 after Christian Garcia allowed a garbage-time homer. Gio Gonzalez becomes the majors' first 20-game winner this season. And the Nats, for the moment, take a 6-game lead over the Braves (who are just getting underway in Philadelphia). The magic number for the NL East crown is down to 6.