BALTIMORE –- It was a strange night for Miguel Gonzalez. He had a rough start, an excellent middle and an awful end. That awful end led to four runs in the sixth inning.
That sixth led to the Washington Nationals’ 7-4 win over the Orioles on Saturday night before the second sellout crowd in as many nights, 44,495 at Oriole Park, tied “The Battle of the Beltways” at a game each.
Gonzalez allowed seven of the first 10 runners to reach, giving up two runs in the second, then set down 10 straight before allowing that four-run sixth without retiring a batter.
“I think the only thing I’m doing wrong is thinking too much right now. Really not focusing on letting it go and just be myself. Right now, mechanically, I’m just overthinking things right now. I think that’s what’s getting away from me. I will go on the break and refresh that come the second half and do what I can do,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez (7-6) allowed six runs on eight hits in five-plus innings.
The Orioles (44-43) have struggled since winning 17 of 22 last month. They’ve lost nine of 12, and they are just 1-for-35 with runners in scoring position in their last five games.
“Just not taking advantage of opportunities. I’d say we’re not knocking runners in off base, a lot of teams are getting a lot of two-out base knocks off us. Other teams are getting the job done, and we just haven’t been. But it’s baseball, it comes around,” Steve Pearce said.
About 45 minutes before game time, Chris Davis was scratched with gastroenteritis, and the Orioles made several changes to their lineup. For a time, it looked as if those alterations would pay off.
Manager Buck Showalter said that about 75 minutes before the scheduled 7:15 p.m. start, Davis became ill. He didn’t commit to Davis playing on Sunday.
Showalter added the Davis’ illness to his list of woes, which includes the lack of clutch production.
Sometimes, I think we're trying to do too much and that's a lot easier to say. You tell them not to. At this level pitchers make a living at letting you get yourself out and I think that's happening, but that's true every night in some form or fashion,” Showalter said.
In the bottom of the first, Manny Machado led off with single off Jordan Zimmermann. Chris Parmelee doubled, and Machado scored on an infield out by Jimmy Paredes.
The Nationals (47-39) took a 2-1 lead in the second. Wilson Ramos walked, Danny Espinosa and Tyler Moore singled to load the bases with none out, and Ramos scored on Ian Desmond’s double play. Matt den Dekker walked, and Michael A. Taylor’s single drove in Espinosa.
With one out in the second, J.J. Hardy singled, and Caleb Joseph hit his sixth home run of the season, and the Orioles had a 3-2 advantage.
Pearce, inserted in the lineup when Davis was scratched, hit his seventh home run leading off the fourth.
By then, Gonzalez was on his roll. That streak abruptly ended when Bryce Harper hit his first home run against the Orioles, and his 26th of the season to lead off the sixth. Harper had been 4-for-24 in Baltimore.
Clint Robinson and Ramos singled. They scored when Espinosa ripped his 10th home run of the season to right field for a 6-4 Nationals lead.
Gonzalez hopes by his next start on July 19, things will be better.
“It’s tough man, honestly. You go in and you think about it and you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ I was throwing really good for a couple innings and they’re good hitters,” Gonzalez said. “When you don’t make good pitches, bad things might happen.”
Zimmermann (8-5) allowed four runs on nine hits in five innings.
Desmond walked against Tommy Hunter in the ninth, stole second, moved to third on den Dekker’s bunt and scored on Taylor’s single to right.
Blake Treinin, Felipe Rivero, Casey Janssen and Drew Storen combined to allow just one hit in the fourth inning. Storen pitched the ninth for his 26th save.
The Orioles need a win on Sunday to finish the season’s first half with a record above .500.
“I always say at the break ask me how are season is going so far. No matter what we’re still going to be – our division is so tight – it’s still up for grabs. Obviously going into the break with a W is always good. But the second half is going to be real important because whoever gets hot is gonna probably win the division,” Jones said.
NOTES: Max Scherzer (9-7, 2.12) faces Wei-Yin Chen (4-4, 2.82) on Sunday in the final game before the four-day All-Star break. … The Orioles have fifth sellouts this season.