Postgame analysis of the Nats' 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
How it happened: After exploding for 31 runs over a three-game span, the Nationals looked like a completely different team on Thursday night, a team that was no match for White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez in the final game of an 11-day road trip.
The good news is that their own starter, Gio Gonzalez, bounced back from three consecutive poor outings. It just wasn't enough to overcome a one-run performance by the Nats' offense in their 3-1 loss.
The Nationals' bats went collectively cold on Thursday. Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon went hitless amid hot streaks. Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy each notched one hit. Murphy's was his 11th homer and it gave the Nationals their only run of the evening.
Werth and Harper's hits came in the top of the ninth against closer David Robertston to put runners on the corners with two outs. Murphy, however, then lined out to deep left field to end the game.
What it means: The Nationals saw their three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 6-3 on their road trip. Next they return home to host the Phillies.
Gio bounces back: For one inning on Thursday night, it looked like Gonzalez was in for another terrible outing, another clunker after three straight disasters that raised questions about whether his strong start to the 2016 season was all a mirage. He gave up three runs in the bottom of the first thanks to two two-strike walks and back-to-back doubles by Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie. It was the first time in 31 starts that Gonzalez allowed a run in the first inning.
But after that, Gio settled in and retired 11 straight batters until Tyler Saladino singled in the fifth inning. All told, Gonzalez went seven innings of three-run ball with five hits and two walks allowed. His 10 strikeouts were a season-high and the 14th time in his career he's reached double digits. Gio ended up throwing 116 pitches, which was also a season-high.
Murphy hits No. 11: Murphy launched his 11th homer to his favorite spot in right field off Gonzalez, his fourth homer in his last nine games. He's now on pace for 30 home runs and 105 RBI this season. Considering his career-highs in those categories are 14 and 78, that's quite remarkable.
Lobaton thrown out at home: The Nationals had another good scoring chance in the sixth inning after catcher Jose Lobaton led off with a single and then went first-to-third on a double by Michael Taylor. Lobaton was ruled safe and the call was upheld despite a challenge by the White Sox. Lobaton, though, would get thrown out at home on the next play, on a groundball to Saladino at shortstop. It was a close play, but catcher Dioner Navarro placed a good tag on Lobaton. Werth then grounded into a double play to end the frame. The Nats had a great opportunity with men on second and third with no outs, but came away with nothing to show for it.
Up next: The Nationals return home after a lengthy, 11-day road trip with a weekend series in store against the Philadelphia Phillies. Stephen Strasburg (9-0, 2.85) will pitch the opener for the Nats opposite Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 3.80).