|Photo by USA Today|
Game in a nutshell: The Nationals had lost four straight with a total of four runs scored, a dismal stretch that forced manager Davey Johnson to make changes to his lineup. Whether it was his adjustments or not, the Nats finally broke through with a six-run outburst through the first three innings. They got started with an RBI double by birthday boy Danny Espinosa in the second and scored another on a slow infield grounder by Denard Span. In the third both Espinosa and Bryce Harper hit home runs as the Nats took a 6-0 lead and let pitcher Gio Gonzalez work the rest of the night with a comfortable lead.
Hitting highlight: The Nats entered the third inning with a two-run lead, but quickly decided they wanted more. Harper led off the inning with a solo home run to dead center field. Werth then singled and was moved to third on a Joey Votto throwing error after he fielded a grounder from Adam LaRoche. Ian Desmond scored Werth on a fielder’s choice groundball and Espinosa then scored both himself and LaRoche on a two-run shot to right-center field. Finally a big inning for the Nats’ offense.
Pitching highlight: Gio Gonzalez entered Thursday’s game coming off two forgettable starts with a deep and powerful Reds lineup awaiting. He threw 33 pitches through his first two innings, but was perfect against the first 11 batters he faced. A solo shot by Votto broke up his no-hit bid, but Gonzalez finished strong with no runs allowed, one hit, two walks, seven strikeouts, and one home run through eight innings of work.
Key stat: The Nats scored four runs in the third inning, as many as they had produced in their previous four games combined.
Up next: The Nats will look to build off their offensive outbreak in the second game of the series as Jordan Zimmermann (3-1, 2.67 ERA) and Homer Bailey (1-1, 3.24 ERA) face off.