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Gonzalez turns in uneven outing, drops third straight

Aug 27, 2015, 10:14 AM EDT

Aug 26, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) walks off the field after being removed from the game against the San Diego Padres during the fifth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

It was only a few weeks ago that it seemed as though Gio Gonzalez had turned a corner. The lefty starter was perhaps the most consistent member in the Nationals’ rotation, quietly stringing together quality starts over a month-and-a-half stretch. From June 21 to August 11, he sported a 5-0 record with a 1.48 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.

But much like the rest of the staff in the season’s second half, the title of “most reliable starter” has been tough to lock down.

Gonzalez’ uneven outing in Wednesday night vs. the Padres was his third straight loss, allowing five runs (four earned) in just 4 2/3 innings. It was the second time in his last three starts that he’s been unable to get through the fifth.

So did he show anything that was indicative of his recent struggles?

“Not tonight,” manager Matt Williams said. “He worked through the first inning and had a little trouble. He couldn’t get through the next time around with those guys in the middle of the order.”

Indeed, the Padres’ big boppers gave Gonzalez trouble in the third inning. After Yunel Escobar’s botched double play attempt that kept the inning alive, Matt Kemp hit a two-run double to right center field and Justin Upton launched a two-run home run to left center to put the Nats down 4-0 and in chase mode the rest of the game.

“The double was a good pitch and the ball was hit to right field,” Gonzalez said of the Padres’ rally. “So I think the [pitch] was down and away where I wanted it to be. Good hitter. Tip your cap.”

And much like Williams, Gonzalez didn’t seem to view his night as the continuation of a concerning trend.

“Nothing [troubled me out there],” he said. “Not really anything. I was pounding the strike zone. I was getting ahead of the hitters. Maybe walked two guys. Other than that, typical start.”

That may be, but the Padres had the first batter reach base in four of the five innings Gonzalez worked, making him working from the stretch before he could establish a rhythm. That’s not a new problem, either. This season, leadoff men are hitting .326 against him — highest among Nats pitchers with at least 15 starts.

“It’s traffic for the pitcher out of the stretch,” Williams said. “The rhythm is certainly different. We talk about it with regard to our offense all the time. It just makes it more difficult. It puts pressure on.”

Pressure might be the right word to use for an up-and-down rotation that was expected to be the game’s best before the season started. Since the All-Star break, Nats starters are 12-17 with an ordinary 4.28 ERA — 14th best in the majors. Meanwhile, the surging Mets own the fourth-best ERA since the break at 3.30.

Gonzalez may have had an off night, as he and Williams suggested. But given the widening gap between the two clubs in the NL East race, every hiccup becomes increasingly costly each night one occurs.

  1. jd - Aug 27, 2015 at 10:39 AM

    Food for thought:

    There are a bunch of teams in the race for the 2nd wild card in the AL. How about trading Fister to one of these teams and you don’t really need to get much in return? my tinkling is that Fister doesn’t offer much to the Nats this year anyway especially since they picked Roark to take over for Ross when he is shut down and you also can’t risk giving Fister a QO, can you?

    • bowdenball - Aug 27, 2015 at 11:55 AM

      They picked Roark to take over for Ross but they need someone to take over for Roark as the long man.

      I don’t see much risk in giving Fister a QO. The unlikely worst case scenario is that he accepts and you’ve got an overpaid #5 starter who converts to the #6 guy when Giolito is ready. So what? There’s plenty of money left to spend for 2016 and there’s no long term implications since it’s a one year deal.

      And I don’t know how likely that worst case scenario is anyway. Ervin Santana was the same age Fister will be last winter and he signed for 4 years 54 million. Fister certainly compares favorably to Santana even if Santana’s 2014 season is better than Fister’s 2015. There’s always a market for guys like Fister.

      • Section 222 - Aug 27, 2015 at 12:15 PM

        Fister hasn’t been pitching well enough to be an improvement over AJ Cole or any other starter the Nats want to bring up in September for garbage time. Plus, they’ll have extra relievers to fill in the gaps. And we’ve had the discussion before about a Q.O. I don’t think there’s any way they give him one, and if they do, I’ll bet he would take it.

        Mike, If you can get something, anything, for Doug Fister before the trade deadline, go for it.

  2. micksback1 - Aug 27, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    Seems like Nats win when I go to the park so that must explain why they lost last night as it was not my turn to go, ha ha.

    In all seriousness, Gio has sucked the past 2 weeks after having a fairly good season. Not sure what is wrong but if he is on the decline, that does not bode well for 2016 and that means Rizzo has to replace Gio, J Zim and Fister.

    Lucas G is another season away, so, I suppose we look at a rotation of Stras, Max, Ross, Roark and probably a free agent?

    As far as last night goes, the bats scored 5 runs and it should have been enough, but Gio and Fister SUCKED!

    As far as MW’s typical arrogant tone deaf response “we play aggressive and stay agressive” in regard to Escobar swinging on 3-0, it just convnces me that he is a terrible manager,and i say it not because swinging on 3-0 is a bad thing but there were tow facts about that situation that were clear to me, my wife and my son who were watching the game before the 3-0 pitch.

    1) Escobar, who is batting over 300 and it was pointed out to me by either Bowden, JD or Wonk a month ago that he leads the team and is in the top 10 in the NL in hitting into double play balls (I did not know that at the time). I would assume MW knoew that

    2) Most important, the Padres pitcher was struggling with LOCATION, period!! Why the hell would you swing as this guy could not throw 2 strikes in row let alone 3???

    3) Look who we had on deck, who is driving the ball quite well? HELLO MATT!!!!

    These are things good managers know. As I have posted before, MW is not only a terrible tone deaf manager in knowing his players, he is one arrogant ass in NEVER admitting that maybe he was wrong. This is why he is a loser in my book, i do not like him and oveerall he destroyed the season when all is said and done.

    I am sure the MW fans (probably only exsist in here) will jump on this LOL

    • jd - Aug 27, 2015 at 10:53 AM

      Actually, I think you summed it up pretty well in your own style no less.

    • nats106 - Aug 27, 2015 at 10:59 AM

      Thank you Mick. I stopped defending MW back in April (well documented diatribes when I had been at the game in person) I think the only people defending him now would be Rizzo and family members. And I’m not even sure about them.

      I still say this team has quit on him. Gio? Just go back to the August 5th game when he was pulled for Barrett. And we all know how that ended.

    • nats2005 - Aug 27, 2015 at 11:06 AM

      I personally don’t think there is any way Lucas isn’t in the rotation next year, but I agree with your other comments.

      I am trying to think of the most disappointing season in DC Sports History and this has to be near the top.

      Something like 117 out of 120 sports columnists around the country picked us to win the East I heard on the radio. And the other 3 picked the Marlins.

      And now I have to pony up and pay for postseason tickets by Aug. 31st?!

      What a joke!

      Diz

  3. scnatsfan - Aug 27, 2015 at 11:07 AM

    It’s a typical Gio game; some nights he looks amazing, some nights he labors thru 30 pitch innings. You always hope for good Gio but too many times its not.

    • someguyinva - Aug 27, 2015 at 11:10 AM

      SomeDaughterInVA and I have a running joke when Gio’s pitching. At the first sign of adversity, one of us will wonder aloud if “Gio is gonna Gio”.

      I said it first last night after the Escobar play where he turned a potential DP into nothing, and before we knew it, Gio had Gio’d his way into giving up four runs.

  4. micksback1 - Aug 27, 2015 at 11:08 AM

    Apparently Ted Lerner asked MW why he had Yunel swing on 3-0, i found the tape:

  5. nats106 - Aug 27, 2015 at 11:18 AM

    Nuck Nuck Nuck

    • micksback1 - Aug 27, 2015 at 12:43 PM

      oh a wise guy…why you…..

      lol

  6. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 27, 2015 at 12:04 PM

    Gio’s performance, as usual, is on Gio. He’s been an inconsistent pitcher since 2012. There was a point this season where he was the second best pitcher on the team (if one wasn’t willing to give that honor to Ross because of his inexperience). But he just can’t keep it up. Can any team, let alone this one, live with a pitcher who spends half the season unable to tell one side of the plate from the other? I do think Williams erred in putting Ramos in the lineup — but pitchers shouldn’t need to have their own nannies.

    Does Gio think Boras will make him a better pitcher? Or will it be Boras’s job to convince the Nats to pick up their options?

  7. npb99 - Aug 27, 2015 at 12:34 PM

    Story of the season. As soon as one player hits his groove – Stras – another goes into a slump – Gio.

  8. Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 27, 2015 at 1:17 PM

    Ive wondered for a while now if Gio will be a Nationals player next year. I can see him getting traded for a LHB…

    • jd - Aug 27, 2015 at 1:48 PM

      You are already losing JZim and Fister so you only have Stras, Scherzer, Ross and Gio returning. I don’t see how they trade Gio before the young guns (including Ross) establish themselves. Gio is really tough to watch and I wouldn’t mind getting over him normally I just don’t think 2016 is the right time.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 27, 2015 at 3:24 PM

        You know how I feel about Jordan…. I refuse to not believe.. 😆😆

    • npb99 - Aug 27, 2015 at 2:04 PM

      As frustrating as Gio is at times, if you think of him as your 4th best starter, a guy you’re happy with at mid to high 3 ERA, he has mostly delivered as such.

      • NatsLady - Aug 27, 2015 at 3:05 PM

        Well, his ERA is 4.11. I don’t think Gio gets traded because he’s (relatively) inexpensive, for a 4th starter.

  9. homeparkdc - Aug 27, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    MLBTR is reporting that Gio switched to the Boras Corporation. Interesting. Maybe he wants a trade out of DC?

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2015/08/gio-gonzalez-switches-to-boras-agency.html

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