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Advice from teammates helps Gio get back on track

May 24, 2015, 6:10 PM EDT

May 24, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) throws to the Philadelphia Phillies during the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a pair of ugly outings and having allowed at least five earned runs in three of his last five starts, Gio Gonzalez was searching for answers heading into Sunday afternoon’s matchup with the Philadelphia Phillies. Gonzalez had been uncharacteristically inconsistent, and something had to change.

The lefty sought advice from a host of people around the Nationals clubhouse, including pitching coach Steve McCatty, of course. But he also received words of wisdom from three of his teammates.

Catcher Jose Lobaton and Gonzalez sat down on Saturday to talk about keeping his pitches lower in the zone. Closer Drew Storen advised Gonzalez on a slight mechanical adjustment. And Max Scherzer gave Gonzalez tips on changing batters’ eye levels during an at-bat.

Add it all up and Gonzalez was able to battle through seven scattered hits and a walk to put in one of his best starts of the 2015 season. Gio kept his pitch count low for most of the afternoon to go 6 1/3 innings with just one earned run allowed in the 4-1 victory.

“Credit goes a lot to my catcher, did a great job. I give credit to my pitching coach, who helped me boost my confidence in my bullpen [session] and just basically telling me go out there and be myself. Another big piece to today’s success was the help of Drew Storen. Finding little pieces that I needed to find, helping me to redefine my mechanics. It’s just fun picking everyone’s brains. The other day I was picking Max [Scherzer]’s brain just seeing to go out there and attack the strike zone and change the eyesight of some of the hitters,” Gonzalez said.

Storen went into more detail about the advice he gave Gonzalez before Sunday’s win:

“I always try to stay out of the way a little bit. But I saw a couple things and I said ‘hey, it might be worth trying’. You know, I’m a guy that I like to twist and kinda throw similarly like he does but from the other side obviously. I just told him a couple little things to think about. I didn’t really know if he was gonna go with it or not, but he did and it seemed to work out alright. So I guess that’s good,” he said.

Storen was impressed that Gonzalez would listen to him, as not everyone is open to tips from their peers.

“It just shows you what a good teammate he is. Anytime somebody tells me something, I try it once and if it doesn’t work then I maybe scrap it. Hopefully it worked so I felt kind of good about that,” Storen said.

Manager Matt Williams thought the change in Gonzalez’ delivery allowed him to keep the ball lower in the zone, which set up the rest of his repertoire.

“He was down in the strike zone, which is good. If he wanders, generally it’s up and away from the right-hander. Today he didn’t do that. Today he was down and that’s the secret to his success. It just opens up everything else for him. It opens up the inside corner for him, opens up his changeup and his breaking ball. He threw them all today really well. He had some early-count breaking balls for strikes and then changeups down and away from the righties, too,” Williams said.

Gonzalez moved to 4-2 on the season and dropped his ERA to 4.53. He still has lots of work to do to prove he’s completely back on track, but Sunday was certainly a step in the right direction. Gonzalez hopes his struggles are behind him, now that he’s shown himself the recipe for success.

“Today was just, for me, a mental check where it’s going uphill now,” he said. “I’m trying to stay up there.”

  1. pchuck69 - May 24, 2015 at 6:38 PM

    Good thing he didn’t get any advice from Strasburg.

    j/k

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 24, 2015 at 6:56 PM

      Ouch!

  2. janebeard - May 24, 2015 at 7:40 PM

    We were there today and right away my smart husband remarked that Gio was getting the low strike and that was good fir our team. I recall another game early this season when they were squeezing the zine and Gio was cooked.

    This was only my SECOND game at the stadium this year, my absolute worst total in ten years. It was awesome to be there. Our guys looked good, and not just #34 who, with that force out, just looks like cyberballplayer.

    I was also so impressed by the slyly funny music they play this year after interesting moments. Of course, I can’t think of a single example at the moment. But it made me laugh a dozen times. Worth listening to!

    8 in a row. On to the Cubbies who, I hope, will revert to BEING the Cubbies.

    GYFNG!

    • Eric - May 24, 2015 at 7:58 PM

      Smoooooooth operator!

    • Whynat - May 24, 2015 at 8:58 PM

      In my house we call 34 the cyborg monster

    • ccallahan15 - May 25, 2015 at 12:35 AM

      “It’s a hard knock life” kinda electro pop style after an opponent strikes out is pretty funny and subtle if you’re not listening for it.

      • Eric - May 25, 2015 at 8:59 AM

        Yeah that was great!

  3. sec105rowwseat28 - May 24, 2015 at 7:50 PM

    Gio has to get his advice from the likes of Scherzer, Storen and Lobaton because the “Take a number for faster service” line outside McCatty’s office has been stuck on #37 for most of this season.

  4. TimDz - May 24, 2015 at 7:52 PM

    Unrelated….
    Kila Ka’aihue was released by the Nats today….

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 24, 2015 at 8:43 PM

      Funny, I commented this morning on how he and the other fringe AAAA guys were horrible.

      Good thing Rizzo didn’t buy into Spring Training bloated stats.

    • therealjohnc - May 24, 2015 at 10:10 PM

      Matt Skole may be headed out the door as well. He does have seven HRs, but he’s batting a smooth .199 as a 25yo player in AA. That’s not getting it done.

      Fun note: Syracuse got the win today with spot starter Paolo Espino called up from Harrisburg not only pitching seven shutout innings but hitting his first professional HR, a 2 out, 3 run shot to put the Chiefs up 4-0 in a game that they won 5-3.

      They won 5-3 because Rafael Martin struggled again. He’s been pretty bad since being sent back down, with his ERA ballooning to 5.84. Still better than Jose Valverde, who gave up a run in the 8th and whose ERA in Syracuse is a smooth 6.75.

  5. natsfan1a - May 24, 2015 at 7:54 PM

    Whatever they all told him, keep doing it, because it worked. It was a fun day at the ballpark, for sure!

  6. sec112 - May 24, 2015 at 7:55 PM

    Was at the game. Solid performance all around. The scoreboard called Bryce player of the game, but I would have given it to Gio, as we needed a strong start today after yesterday, and he gave us one. Made a good fielding play too. Harper’s 2-3 with 2 RBIs lowered his slugging percentage for the month, so I guess he’s fading now. It was just a matter of time . . .

    Matt Williams was surprisingly aggressive with the bullpen – not his typical style from last year.

  7. Just. Dave - May 24, 2015 at 8:24 PM

    I hate to sound cynical, but the phillies make a lot of pitchers look good. Let’s see Gio have a good game versus a good team.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 24, 2015 at 8:50 PM

      I’m with you. That was one pathetic split-squad lineup. Francouer got the only RBI.

      I also like that Gio was quick to pass around the praise but without knowing the mechanical suggestion from Storen the rest of the advice seemed commonsense such as moving up and down and mixing up pitches etc but Francouers RBI hit was of a back to back changeup.

  8. #4 - May 24, 2015 at 8:33 PM

    Was at the game today. I liked what Williams did with the pen today. Two things stood out. First he left Grace in there to face the lefty to start the 8th rather than blindly going with “my eight inning guy”. Two, he had Thornton warming up in the eighth to keep Ryan Howard on the bench when Jansen was pitching. Spekaing of Jansen, I loved his tempo. He really attacks. A solid year from him would help the BP immensely. Lastly Span should have advanced on Desi’s ball in the first. The rule is that any ball hit at you, you advance. Galvis had to step to his left to field it. It’s not worth taking the chance of not getting an out to try and get Span if he goes.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 24, 2015 at 8:52 PM

      Great points. Smart use of Grace. Pulled Gio at the right time. I liked it.

      Sandberg with decisions that backfired.

    • Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2015 at 9:00 PM

      Span would have been dead meat.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2015 at 9:04 PM

        I agree with everything else you said 4, and I am almost always ultra aggressive. There are exceptions to every rule. That ball was hit sharply, and though yes, it was hit to Span’s left it would have been an easy play to nail him at third.

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 24, 2015 at 9:37 PM

      Conflicting rules? Never make the first (or third) out of the inning at 3rd base?

  9. mauimo22 - May 24, 2015 at 8:55 PM

    Blueprint for future success for Stras. Dig deep, focus, sharpen your noodle and frickin’ don’t ever ever forget to back up another base!

    #StrasBlueprintForSuccess

    • natfan33 - May 24, 2015 at 9:10 PM

      Even better advice: Move over for Mr. Roark.

  10. Ghost of Steve M. - May 24, 2015 at 9:36 PM

    http://mlb.mlb.com/r/article?ymd=20150524&content_id=126369928&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

    Good stuff on Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper who are both from Las Vegas.

  11. infideljack - May 24, 2015 at 9:58 PM

    I love baseball when the Nats win. I always hate all o
    ther spórts except fast pitch softball.

    • infideljack - May 24, 2015 at 9:59 PM

      sheesh…edit button dessert

  12. veejh - May 25, 2015 at 1:11 AM

    Don’t discount the Gio. He pitched well.

  13. veejh - May 25, 2015 at 1:12 AM

    I really liked what i saw from Janssen. World domination.

  14. Joe Seamhead - May 25, 2015 at 2:54 AM

    Off topic, but our new buddy,Trea Turner has a 9 game hitting streak going in which he has raised his BA from .313 to 340 He also has an OBP of .420 He still only has 3 errors in 39 games played. I am thinking he might go to Harrisburg when the trade is completed rather than to Potomac.

    • needanatsfix - May 25, 2015 at 7:19 AM

      I’m pretty sure he is already in AA, so the question should be Harrisburg or Syracuse. I don’t think Potomac is even a consideration.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 25, 2015 at 7:42 AM

        Maybe. The original talk was he would go to Potomac anyway. I think it likely he will start in Harrisburg, assuming Difo is just getting a cup of coffee until Rendon returns, Then comes the big decision as to which one stays at short, and which one plays 2B if they both end up in Syracuse?

  15. natsfan1a - May 25, 2015 at 7:33 AM

    ‘scuse me if this was already posted, but Ryne Sandberg is chirping about the visitor BP music, and times. Dude, seriously? Oh how the mighty have fallen. ( I wonder which Nats player laughed when asked about it. My money’s on J-Dub.)

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/wp/2015/05/24/ryne-sandberg-upset-with-the-nationals-batting-practice-music-and-times/

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