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Lost in shuffle, another strong start for Gonzalez


Lost in shuffle, another strong start for Gonzalez

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."

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Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?


Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Giants right-hander Chris Stratton will seek to duplicate two impressive efforts when he takes the mound for the opener of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Monday night at 10:15 p.m. ET.

The series is the first in San Francisco since Giants reliever Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals star Bryce Harper with a pitch last May, triggering a brawl at the mound that resulted in the ejection of both players.

The Giants got the worst of the altercation, with slugging backup Michael Morse suffering a career-ending concussion in a collision with teammate Jeff Samardzija near the mound.

Stratton wasn't with the Giants at the time, but he contributed one of the best-pitched games of his young career when the clubs met again in Washington in August.


Making just his third career start, the 27-year-old shut out the Nationals on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win. He struck out 10.

It's the only time he has faced Washington.

Stratton (1-1, 2.22) has won just four times since, and came close to a fifth when he limited Arizona to one run in seven innings in his last start on Wednesday. He did not, however, get a decision in the 4-3 win, during which he recorded eight strikeouts.

The Giants will be opening a 10-game homestand following a 10-game trip on which they went just 4-6. Statton started two of the four wins.

Stratton wasn't the only Giants starter who pitched well on the trip. The club is coming off a series win against the Los Angeles Angels in which both Samardzija and Johnny Cueto took shutouts late into wins.

Strickland saved Sunday's 4-2 win for Cueto, and afterward was asked about his thoughts of seeing Harper again.

"Win a series," is all he would say.


In the Nationals, the Giants will be seeing a team coming off a high-profile series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one that included a meeting on Sunday Night Baseball.

Washington lost two of three in the rematch of 2017 division winners, scoring a total of just eight runs on 21 hits in the three games, which ended with the Nationals stranding two in the top of the ninth of a 4-3 loss on Sunday.

Harper went 2-for-10 in the series, which the Nationals played without injured regulars Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton. They remain out.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.49) will oppose Stratton.

The veteran has made 12 career starts against the Giants, going 5-4 with a 3.06 ERA.

He restored order to the Nationals-Giants series in San Francisco last season the day after the brawl, pitching 6 1/3 innings in a 6-3 win. It improved his record at AT&T Park to 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA in seven starts.

Gonzalez threw 97 pitches in beating the New York Mets 5-2 in his last start, allowing two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday.

That pitch total wasn't even five times the number Giants first baseman Brandon Belt saw in one historic at-bat Sunday against the Angels' Jaime Barria in the first inning.

Belt fouled off 16 pitches and flied out on the 21st pitch of the at-bat, the most pitches in a Major League Baseball at-bat since 1988.

Afterward, Belt apologized.

"When I'm in the field, I hate it when a batter keeps fouling pitches off," he insisted. "I'm like, 'Dude, just put it in play. It's not that hard. Let's go.' So, I basically had to apologize to everybody after that."


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Bullpen falters as Dodgers rally from 3 runs down to top Nationals


Bullpen falters as Dodgers rally from 3 runs down to top Nationals

LOS ANGELES  -- Although Cody Bellinger's fierce line drive drove in the tying run, it hit the center field wall so quickly that the throw back to the infield beat him to second base.

No problem: Bellinger adroitly avoided the tag with a swim move he learned from watching Mike Trout on television, and the Dodgers kept charging toward the latest win in their comeback surge.

Bellinger followed Yasmani Grandal's two-run double with an RBI double in the sixth, and Corey Seager drove in Austin Barnes with the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of Los Angeles' sixth win in seven games, 4-3 over the Washington Nationals on Sunday night.

With smart plays by Bellinger, Barnes and almost everybody else, the Dodgers (10-10) got back to .500 after a rough start for the defending NL champions. They were largely dominated by Jeremy Hellickson until they erased a three-run deficit in the sixth with three big hits from their patchwork lineup.

"There were signs of that old ballclub when we were coming from behind," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "That was good to see."

Los Angeles went ahead shortly after Barnes was hit by a pitch from Trevor Gott (0-1). Barnes wisely advanced to third on Chris Taylor's single and scored on Seager's fly.

"You've got to make something happen in that situation," Barnes said of his dash to third. "We're trying to get runs on the board late in the game. It was worth a shot. Be aggressive and play our kind of baseball, and eventually it'll pay off for us."

Alex Wood pitched six innings of six-hit ball for the Dodgers, and Josh Fields (1-0) survived a rocky seventh inning.

Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth for his first save since April 10 and his third of the season -- but not without drama. The Dodgers' vaunted closer began the ninth by yielding two singles, but then struck out Andrew Stevenson and Trea Turner before ending it on Howie Kendrick's fly to the warning track.

Michael Taylor homered, doubled, singled and walked for the Nationals, who have lost seven of 11.

Hellickson retired 14 straight Dodgers before doubles by Chris Taylor and Grandal, with a walk by Seager sandwiched between them. Bellinger followed with his go-ahead line drive against Sammy Solis.

"The one that Taylor got was probably just a tad up," Hellickson said. "(The pitch to) Grandal was down. Probably the only at-bat I'd like to have back is that one to Seager."

Michael Taylor put his first homer of the season into the home bullpen beyond left field in the fourth. He then doubled, advanced on Wood's pickoff throw into center field and scored on Moises Sierra's mid-length fly in the sixth for a 3-0 lead.