First of all, Gio Gonzalez pitched a great game after a 32-pitch first inning that resulted in 1 unearned run. He took control after the first inning and went 6 2/3 innings with no earned runs lowering his ERA to 2.39 which is still 3rd in the Majors trailing only Clayton Kershaw and Gio’s teammate Max Scherzer. Unfortunately, Gio threw a season-high 121 pitches in this game, and that certainly raised some eyebrows when you are looking to ease up on your pitchers down the stretch with the large 14.0 game lead the Nationals hold in the NL East.
“[Gio Gonzalez] took one for the team,” Dusty Baker said. “We needed him to go as deep as he did. We were thinking about it around the fifth and the sixth, but we needed some innings.”
Clearly Matt Grace was unavailable due to his Friday night workload, and Sammy Solis, Shawn Kelley, and Matt Albers all pitched late in the game on Saturday night and they all pitched on Friday night as well. Brandon Kintzler and Sean Doolittle didn’t pitch on Friday or Saturday night which would have made Kintzler available for more than one inning if needed. Joe Blanton was the multi-inning pitcher ultimately, and Oliver Perez certainly was good for at least one inning as he has done for Dusty Baker this season.
“We couldn’t fill those innings,” Dusty Baker said as the reason he kept Gio Gonzalez in the game for so long.
But that statement sounded like Dusty Baker said that as if it was a fact. It just is not true.
Dusty has used Joe Blanton, Oliver Perez, and Brandon Kintzler already this season for more than 1 inning each. In fact Oliver Perez has pitched 2 innings this year two times for Dusty, and Joe Blanton has pitched 2-to-3 innings three times this season for Dusty.
Gio Gonzalez could have ended his day at the completion of the 6th inning at exactly 105 pitches, and could have turned the game over to Joe Blanton and Oliver Perez in any combination to complete the 3 outs in the 7th inning with Brandon Kintzler on stand-by in the 7th just in case Blanton and Perez couldn’t get 3 outs in one inning. We saw on the MASN telecast that Kintzler was aggressively warming in the 7th inning if he was needed when Joe Blanton was actually brought in to get the last out in the 7th inning. Kintzler did get the Hold in the 8th inning and Doolittle got his 11th Nats’ save in the 9th inning.
Also keep in mind if for whatever reason Max Scherzer cannot pitch on Friday, Gio Gonzalez will have to pitch on regular rest. Some of the logic to pitch Gio Gonzalez so deep in this game is because he would get an extra rest day if Max Scherzer does indeed come off of the DL on Friday at Nationals Park and is able to pitch. We will see how it goes for Gio Gonzalez with the hope that this game has no negative effects on Gio going forward.
Back to the game, the day-off yesterday seemed to help Wilmer Difo and Daniel Murphy as both carried the Nationals offense today. Difo had two doubles in the game and Daniel Murphy had 2 RBIs in this 4-to-1 win. The Nationals only had 5-hits in this game, but also worked 8 walks which gave the Nationals plenty of baserunners in the game and a total of 11 RISP situations in the game.
The Nationals did not put on a clinic showcasing defense tonight. The team had a total of three errors by Wilmer Difo, Alejandro De Aza and Ryan Zimmerman. In addition, there were other plays that were not crisp by De Aza and Zimmerman, and Difo on a tailor-made doubleplay almost collided with Daniel Murphy.
Much of the issues with sloppy play can be chalked up to fatigue, and some of it can be attributed to a player not in the optimal defensive position like Alejandro De Aza who is known as a below average rightfielder. With all of the injuries on the Nationals team, you can expect some players going into defensive positions that are new to them like Howie Kendrick who played rightfield this week for the first time in his career.
The Nationals improved their record to 74-48 and will head to Houston tonight and enjoy their day-off tomorrow before beginning a stretch of 21 scheduled games in 20 days.