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Lost in shuffle, another strong start for Gonzalez

Jul 11, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

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BALTIMORE — It got lost in the shuffle after the Nationals’ bullpen gave up the tying and winning runs late, but Gio Gonzalez turned in another strong effort Friday night at Camden Yards, offering more encouragement that the left-hander has turned a corner.

Gonzalez allowed one run over six innings, departing with the Nationals leading and thus in line for his third straight win. He didn’t get it, but he did provide more reason to believe he is on the right track after an up-and-down first half of the season.

Gonzalez has now been credited with five quality starts in six outings and has allowed just two runs over his last 20 innings, bringing his ERA under 4.00 for the first time since early May.

And, once again, Gonzalez was paired with Jose Lobaton. The two worked together for the ninth time in the left-hander’s last 10 starts — including the rain-shortened game in Philadelphia — and the difference has been tangible. Gonzalez’s ERA when Lobaton catches is now 2.94. When Wilson Ramos is behind the plate, that number jumps to 5.12.

“He is helping me out with pitches low in the zone,” Gonzalez said. “Loby and I are in sync right now. He’s calling a great game, and I’m just throwing it where he wants it.”

Gonzalez was successful Friday night despite an inconsistent curveball. He made up for it with an effective changeup that he threw to right-handers and led to a couple of his five strikeouts.

“Lots of curveballs,” manager Matt Williams said. “Didn’t really have the feel for it as much. So he went to the changeup a little bit more. He got us into the seventh.”

Gonzalez did get the Nationals into the seventh inning, though it may have surprised some to see him take the mound again after he finished the bottom of the sixth with his pitch count at 100. Williams, though, wanted him to face only one batter: Jimmy Paredes, a far less-productive hitter vs. lefties than righties.

The only problem: Gonzalez walked Paredes on six pitches, ending his night and forcing Aaron Barrett to enter the game with a man on base.

“I was a little flat at the end,” the lefty said. “In my mind, I was thinking: ‘Alright, let’s keep pounding that strike zone.’ Obviously, I was up and away, I just missing out on my pitches. I had a nice curveball that was down, and all of sudden I just couldn’t find it after that. Loby worked his tail off to give me a nice strike zone. It sucks that’s how I finish that inning, with a walk.”

Also disappointing was the manner in which the game ended, with Gonzalez stuck with a no-decision after a strong performance. He still stood up for his teammates from the bullpen at the end of a frustrating night.

“Love them to death,” he said. “I wouldn’t change anything about it. These guys bust their tail for us. They’ve gotten me out of big situations. What Aaron Barrett did, he got me out of that inning. Coming back, he looks great. These guys compete. It’s not like they want to go out there and lose this game. My heart’s out to them. They’re fighting. They’re doing their job. It was just a tough loss.”

  1. Nats Fan Zee - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:11 AM

    It was not lost on me. For some here (read the pre-game and early comments of his last two starts) it really has gone un-noticed and most likly will remain un-noticed.

  2. Nats Fan Zee - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    OBTW, that nasty feeling that someone is close behind you would be the Mets. It’s amazing they have hung in this close with the ASG break in sight. With little help expected from the WW (walking wounded) squad for several weeks, the East is going to look very interesting for a while:

    http://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/mets/noah-syndergaard-strikes-out-13-as-mets-beat-diamondbacks-1.10631295

    7/20 – 7/22 series could be a battle for 1st

    • zmunchkin - Jul 11, 2015 at 12:30 PM

      Hot that amazing given the number of injuries the Nats have had.

      Do you know how many games MW has had with his projected starting 8 position players? 0, nada, none. .

      They just need to get healthy!

      • zmunchkin - Jul 11, 2015 at 12:31 PM

        Not, not hot.

      • Doc - Jul 11, 2015 at 1:30 PM

        I’m amazed every time this lineup wins, as well as being totally proud!

        Gooooooooooooooo Nats!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Section 222 - Jul 11, 2015 at 1:16 PM

      Thanks for posting that article. I found this telling:

      “Collins left him in for two more innings, leading to a career-high 116 pitches.

      ‘I didn’t know that was a career high!’ Collins said. ‘That was a piece of information I needed to hear.’

      The revelation was greeted by laughter. ”

      With Matz just going on the DL, and after what’s happened to Harvey, and what happened to Santana, I’m not sure I’d find that very funny.

      • Nats Fan Zee - Jul 11, 2015 at 3:36 PM

        Your right duces ..not only have they wrecked a bunch of arms in recent years and unlike Billy Martin, have nothing to show for it (well, one no hitter I guess).

  3. Doc - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:19 AM

    Time to give Lobaton some credit for his game calling.

    Not sure the defensive metrics have caught up with such catching variables.

    • ArVAFan - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:27 AM

      +59

      And his pitch framing. C & D were complimentary of the number of strikes he “stole.” That certainly helps with Gio’s walk numbers.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 11, 2015 at 2:49 PM

        Of course, the reason that they call the position “catcher” is that the #1 job is to catch the baseball. I don’t know whether it’s because he’s emphasizing framing pitches or what have you, but one can’t help but notice that when Lobaton catches a lot more baseball go back to the backstop (12 in 177.2 innings, or one every 14.8 innings) than when Ramos catches (14 in 574.1 innings, or one every 41 innings). Ramos is also much better at suppressing the opposing running game. He throws out more baserunners (36% CS vs. 25% for Lobaton), and even above that teams attempt fewer steals (one attempt every 15.9 innings vs. one every 11 innings for Lobaton) when he’s catching.

        Even on pitch framing, the difference as calculated by Baseball Prospectus isn’t that great. Of the 85 catchers rated both Lobaton and Ramos are above average, with Lobaton rated #17 and Ramos #26. But once you get a reputation for being good at framing announcers and fans “see” pitch framing even when it may not have had any impact on a call. Even allowing that Lobaton is a slightly better pitch framer, I do know that in addition to Ramos being a better catch & throw guy, the team’s ERA when pitching to Ramos (3.42) is two thirds of a run per game better than the team’s ERA when throwing to Lobaton (4.10).

        FWIW (the number is generated by Baseball Info Solutions, but I’m not sure how they calculate it), B-R thinks that Ramos is a better than average pitch caller (+2) while Lobaton is rated slightly worse than average (-1).

        FP Santangelo has a bromance with Lobaton, and can never stop praising him defensively. As a result it has gotten into certain corners of Nats fandom that Lobaton is superior defensively, and some have even called for him to replace Ramos as the starter. Lobaton is a solid backup catcher, but the Nationals are on rock solid ground in keeping Ramos as the starter.

      • Doc - Jul 11, 2015 at 3:47 PM

        Good data, therealjohnc.

        Thanks!

      • Section 222 - Jul 11, 2015 at 6:28 PM

        Thanks tRJC for the research and analysis. I think FP’s man crush on Loby is really irritation. Of course, I find alot of what FP does irritating, so I suppose that doesn’t mean much. But your point about his persistence starting to influence what fans see is a really good one. All catchers try to frame pitches. Some are so obvious that it’s hard to believe umps are influenced at all, and I think it was Schilling the other night talked about umps getting ticked off when a catcher tries to frame an obvious ball. So announcers have a duty to explain when a guy is good at it, and FP, at least according to your analysis, is doing a disservice to Ramos and to viewers.

        Now one contrary point — the stats you cite don’t measure catching balls thrown from the outfield, right? 🙂

  4. micksback1 - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:56 AM

    I have no problem with Tanner, if nats had delivered in earlier innings, leaving 4 stranded in scoring postion, the homerun becomes moot. Bryce needs to step up tonight, i cannot believe tillmon owned him last night

  5. micksback1 - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:59 AM

    Gio looking good last 3 games.

    I was watching Phil and Cueball head just now and they bring up some interesting points of what the lineup should look like when healthy. The only thing I did not hear them say that I would do is move Espi to SS when Rendon is back and say goodbye to Desi

    • Section 222 - Jul 11, 2015 at 12:08 PM

      That’s because it’s not going to happen. Desi will continue to get rest, but he’s not going to be replaced.

      • micksback1 - Jul 11, 2015 at 12:13 PM

        If he is hitting 210 or below by Aug 1, the fact that Espi’s natural position is SS and batting 250 plus would make ita logical move. Defensively, the Nats would be flawless in the infield, with escobar at third, Desi and SS, Rendon at 2nd and R Zim at 1st. Remember, I propose this on the assumption, everyone is back and healthy.

      • micksback1 - Jul 11, 2015 at 12:14 PM

        meant Espi at SS

      • Section 222 - Jul 11, 2015 at 12:22 PM

        I hear what you’re saying, and I know lots of folks agree that it’s logical. I just don’t see them demoting Desi. If Espi were hitting over .300 and had an OPS of .367 like Esco, he might force his way into the lineup. But he doesn’t. He’ll continue to get alot of playing time, resting the other starters, and because of injuries large and small, but not going to be our starting SS. Not this year, probably not ever.

      • natsguy - Jul 11, 2015 at 2:42 PM

        Sec 222,

        RZIM’s fielding would be there but what about his bat. Right now Tyler Moore and Robinson are actually an upgrade to him offensively.

      • Section 222 - Jul 11, 2015 at 3:43 PM

        Natsguy, several people have been saying something similar, but I’m not buying it. Sure, “right now,” they’re an upgrade, but right now, Zim is injured. When he comes back (if he comes backl), he’ll be the upgrade. For all the worship of C-Rob, and I agree, he’s got a great backstory, his OPS+ is 107. From 2009 through last year, Zim’s has ranged from 119-142. And TyMo? Well, he’s TyMo, a nice bench guy with the occasional pop or big hit, but not an improvement over a healthy Zim at 1B.

  6. Section 222 - Jul 11, 2015 at 12:02 PM

    Gio is a class act, always giving credit to his catcher, the bullpen, the guys in the field. But the fact remains that he’s been very good lately, and no one deserves more credit for that than him.

    Remember all the praise for Loby’s pitch framing the next time you want to moan about the umpire’s strike zone when it’s not favoring the Nats. Can’t have it both ways.

    • kkolchak - Jul 11, 2015 at 12:12 PM

      Gio also started very slowly last season and then came on strong in the second half. At this point we should accept that he is a very good starting pitcher whose main weakness is that he walks too many hitters. He may not ever again compete for a Cy Young award, but any team in the league would take him right now, especially with his team friendly contract.

      • Section 222 - Jul 11, 2015 at 12:22 PM

        Good point on the contract. I wonder how many people would have predicted at the beginning of the season that he would be more successful than Fister at this point.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 11, 2015 at 2:53 PM

        I was actually cautiously optimistic on Gio coming into this season; I think that he was a little unlucky last year whereas Fister was rather fortunate. For me the difference maker is that Gio has made great strides with his changeup. He started going to it halfway through last season, and it’s allowed him to pitch effectively even with a tic or two off of his fastball.

    • Nats Fan Zee - Jul 11, 2015 at 5:20 PM

      +47 😀

  7. rlndtln - Jul 11, 2015 at 12:24 PM

    The bp was not the main problem last night.We would never been in the position for Roark in the 9th if we had scored runs earlier.With just Span and Rendon we would have had 4or 5.

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