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Gonzalez shuts down Braves in Nats' 4th straight win


Gonzalez shuts down Braves in Nats' 4th straight win

Midway through the top of the first inning on Saturday, it looked like Gio Gonzalez was in for a long night. He followed a flyout by Nick Markakis with back-to-back walks against Pedro Ciriaco and Freddie Freeman. Walks are a bad sign for any pitcher, but especially Gio who can be prone to them.

Shortly thereafter, though, Gonzalez settled in to put out one of his best starts of the 2015 season. He allowed only two hits through six scoreless innings. He held the Braves hitless through five - a feat that earned him a standing ovation from Nationals fans - and at one point struck out eight of 11.

Gonzalez was locked in and helped pave the way for a fourth straight win for the Nationals, one that gives Washington a chance for a rare four-game sweep of the Braves on Sunday.

“It’s just being on the same page with your catcher," Gonzalez said. "It helps out a lot especially with [Wilson Ramos] just wanting to be aggressive today. He was telling me yesterday and he was telling me today let’s go, let’s pound the strike zone."

"I just thought he commanded the strike zone well today," manager Matt Williams said. "Threw some good breaking balls to strike guys out, too. Hard breaking balls down and in to the righties. With two strikes, that was effective for him, too. Managed pitch counts innings 2-through-4 and he was able to get through six for us. I think it was really good. He had a couple of walks interspersed in there, but for the most part in command."

Gonzalez outdueled Braves' starter Shelby Miller, who came into the game ranked fifth in the NL with a 2.56 ERA. The Nationals' lineup handed Miller his worst outing of the year: seven earned runs on seven hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings.

The first inning was a minor scare for Gonzalez, but he did run into some serious trouble in the sixth. The Braves loaded the bases with two outs on singles by Nick Markakis and Nick Swisher and a walk by Michael Bourn.

Gio, however, escaped by getting Andrelton Simmons to ground into a forceout at second base for the final out of the inning. It was his 106th and final pitch of the evening.

Gonzalez was appreciative his manager gave him the chance to work out of trouble before calling it a night.

"I was happy that skip gave me a chance to pitch through that sixth inning and get out of my own mess, which is great. We saved another arm in the bullpen," he said.

Gonzalez continued what has been a good few days for the Nats' rotation. Nationals starters have only allowed four earned runs in 22 1/3 total innings during this four-game winning streak. Rookie Joe Ross is up next as the Nats aim for the sweep on Sunday. Then, it's Max Scherzer to kick off a pivotal series against the New York Mets on Monday.

Gonzalez will not face the Mets, but feels like Saturday's win is something he can build off of with just a handful of starts left for him on the schedule.

"[Pitching coach Steve McCatty] was telling me today when I was warming up he was like 'you're finally getting that extension that you wanted. You’re getting out in front, which is great. You finally got your fingers on top of the ball.' Once that came about it was just trying to pound the strike zone and try to be aggressive with Wilson. It worked," he said.

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The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful


The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful

It's that wonderful time of year again — when baseball teams flock to warmer climates for spring training and the regular season is practically around the corner — and Bryce Harper is already killing it.

It took the Washington Nationals a few games to brush away their offseason cobwebs and get back into gear, but since the beginning of March, they're riding a five-game win streak as of Sunday the 4th.

They are 6-4-1 in spring training going into Monday's matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Thursday, the Nats have taken down — in order — the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, defending World Series champion Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers and the Mets again. Sunday's 6-2 win against the Tigers was in large part thanks to Harper's bat, as the star of the team drilled his first home run of spring training. 


Turn up the volume for this one because the sound of Harper's contact with the ball is just beautiful — and perhaps enough to get you pumped for the March 29 opener.

Harper blew this ball away in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer with Howie Kendrick on base. He also had a single in the fourth and finished the game with three RBI.

Gio Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for the Nats. 


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Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches


Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches

We are fortunate enough to live in a world where we can watch a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (attempt to) hit against a three-time Cy Young pitcher in a Major League Baseball preseason game.

Max Scherzer took less than a minute to strike out Tim Tebow, who was batting cleanup for the Mets in a spring training game Friday. You can watch the whole at-bat here:

It looks like Tebow and Scherzer are starting to develop a pattern - last year’s matchup between the two went down the exact same way.

Tebow was able to redeem himself later in the game with his first hit of the year against Nats prospect Erick Fedde. He will likely begin the season with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he believes Tebow will eventually see some at-bats in the Majors.