|Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER|
As detailed earlier this morning, the Nationals are something of an unstoppable force when either Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann or Stephen Strasburg is on the mound (playing at a 101-win pace). So Gio's presence on the mound tonight can only be considered a good thing.
On the other hand, Cliff Lee starts for the Phillies, and that's not a good matchup for the Nationals, who have struggled to hit lefties (MLB-worst .215 batting average) and have struggled to hit control artists like Lee, who has built an entire reputation on throwing strikes and getting quick outs.
So, something's got to give tonight. We'll see what does. Updates to come...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 187
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, Wind 11 mph out to RF
CF Denard Span
SS Ian Desmond
LF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
2B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
LHP Gio Gonzalez
CF Ben Revere
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Chase Utley
LF Domonic Brown
3B Michael Young
RF Delmon Young
1B Darin Ruf
C Carlos Ruiz
LHP Cliff Lee
HP Gary Cederstrom (cc)
1B Kerwin Danley
2B Lance Barksdale
3B Vic Carapazza
7:08 p.m. — We're underway as Cliff Lee throws (what else?) strike one to Denard Span.
7:14 p.m. — The good news: Bryce Harper roped a double off a 2-0 pitch from Lee. The bad news: Span, Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman were retired on a total of seven pitches from Lee, all of them strikes.
7:21 p.m. — Nice 5-4-3 double play turned by Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon in the bottom of the first. Zim continues to get better and better with his throws, an encouraging sign if ever there was one. Gio Gonzalez, meanwhile, gets through the inning on 16 pitches, 9 strikes. Scoreless through one.
7:38 p.m. — Both pitchers settling into a groove here. Lee allowed a leadoff single to Jayson Werth in the second but erased him on a double-play grounder by Anthony Rendon. Gonzalez, meanwhile, pitched his way around a Michael Young double in the bottom of the inning. He's at 33 pitches through two. Still scoreless.
7:47 p.m. — Well, they've hit some balls hard off Lee so far, producing four base hits in three innings. But they haven't turned any of those into runs yet. It didn't help that Gio couldn't get a good bunt down, leading to Wilson Ramos getting thrown out at second base. But if you want to take the positive outlook, the Nats are putting together some decent swings against Lee.
7:56 p.m. — Wow, you don't see that call made too often. With a man on first, Lee bunted and Zimmerman attempted a difficult throw across his body to second base. The throw beat Carlos Ruiz to the bag, but umpire Lance Barksdale called him safe because Desmond's foot came off the bag too soon. Technically, Barksdale was correct. But man, that was really close. That's not a call you see made usually unless it's blatantly obvious, and this one definitely wasn't. But no harm, because Desmond then turned a 6-3 double play and Gio got a flyball to right to get out of the jam. It's still 0-0 after three.
8:20 p.m. — Whoa, back-to-back homers by Rendon and Ramos in the top of the fifth, each of them bombs. Just like that, the Nats lead 2-0.
8:40 p.m. — Whoa, back-to-back homers again. This time by Zimmerman and Werth. If you've lost track, that's four homers in a span of eight batters for the Nationals against Lee. Fairly remarkable. It's 4-0 in the sixth.
8:53 p.m. — Gio, meanwhile, continues to cruise along. He's through six scoreless innings, having allowed just three hits. And he's showing no signs of letting up. Still 4-0 as we go to the seventh.
9:05 p.m. — Gonzalez had to battle late, but Davey gave him the opportunity to finish the seventh inning, and he rewarded his manager for the show of confidence. Though Darin Ruf clubbed a solo homer to right, Gio got through the rest of the inning unscathed. His final line will be: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 117 pitches, 74 strikes. 4-1 Nats as we move to the eighth.
9:19 p.m. — Man, Chase Utley can still pick it at second base. He just started as impressive a 4-6-3 double play as you'll see to end the top of the eighth. Nats still lead 4-1 as Tyler Clippard enters from the bullpen.
9:30 p.m. — And Clippard gets through the eighth. So we go to the ninth, the Nats still ahead 4-1 as Rafael Soriano tucks in and warms up.
9:51 p.m. — An insurance run for the Nats in the top of the ninth as Rendon doubles and then scores thanks to some wretched defense from the Phillies. It's now 5-1, no longer a save situation. But since Soriano was already warming, he's still coming in to finish this one off.
9:58 p.m. — That's it. Nats win 5-1. They're back to three games over the .500 mark. And they're now 36-5 this season when they score at least four runs.