Gio Gonzalez had little support despite being excellent against the Braves last week. On Friday, he had one of his worst starts of the season, but the Washington Nationals (64-64) gave him all the run support he could have needed in their 11-10 win over the Kansas City Royals (64-63).
Gonzalez allowed seven runs over just three and one-third innings. But, the Nats scored seven runs in the fourth off Bruce Chen, and turned a 6-0 deficit into a one-run win.
The win brought the Nationals back to .500 for the first time since their first game after the All-Star break, over a month ago. But for a while during this game, it looked like the Nats would stay below the even mark for at least another two nights.
The game got off to a very inauspicious start for Gonzalez. He gave up extra-base hits to three of the first four Royals, including home runs to Eric Hosmer and ex-Nat Justin Maxwell, putting Kansas City up 3-0 early. The homer was Maxwell’s fourth in 16 games with the Royals, which is one more than he hit in 67 games with the Nats in 2010.
Things only got worse in the second inning. Four more hits and an error on Ian Desmond gave the Royals a seemingly insurmountable 6-0 lead. Gonzalez was on the verge of getting pulled, a potential disaster with an exhausted bullpen, and KC starter Bruce Chen had faced just six batters. It had all the ingredients of a nightmare for the Nationals, until things took a sharp turn for the better.
In the third, a Denard Span triple scored the Nats’ first run, a seemingly inconsequential RBI to cut the lead to 5. Meanwhile, Gonzalez finally got his first scoreless inning to rebound from the previous two. This inning would be only a prelude of things to come, merely foreshadowing an explosive fourth inning
Chen, who had done a relatively good job of containing the Nats through three innings, had a complete nuclear meltdown when the Nats returned to bat. Three singles and a sac fly later, the Nationals were down just 6-2. Two straight walks drove in another run, but it was Bryce Harper who brought the Nats all the way back.
Harper’s bases-clearing double turned a 6-3 game into a 6-6 tie. Chen was done after just three and two-thirds innings, but his replacement did no better. Jayson Werth followed him up with a deep home run, putting the Nats on top 8-6 in a game it once seemed like they had no shot to win.
Gonzalez would be pulled one out into the bottom of the fourth, after yielding another run to make the game 8-7. The ‘pen was stretched thin, which is why Tanner Roark’s outing was an absolute blessing. He came in and dominated efficiently, allowing just one walk and no hits over four and two-thirds innings on 58 pitches.
A single and an error with the bases loaded gave the Nationals two more runs in the seventh, putting them up four into the ninth. Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano combined to allow three runs in the bottom of the inning to make it interesting, but Soriano eventually closed it out, preserving the 11-10 win.
The Nats have a decided advantage in tomorrow’s matchup as they aim to break .500. Jordan Zimmermann (14-7, 3.37) faces Wade Davis (6-9, 5.43) in the second game of the series.