The Nats fell into a 4-0 hole early, but Gio Gonzalez rebounded to hold the Baltimore Orioles (50-41) down for the rest of his start, and the Washington Nationals (49-41) stranded nine as they missed opportunities and could not complete the comeback, falling 4-3.
Gonzalez’s (L, 6-5) scoreless innings streak came to an end very early in the game, but he battled through some early struggles to end up throwing a great outing. And while the offense sputtered in the first few innings, the bats came roaring back as the game went on, and just barely missed completing the four-run comeback.
The suspense over how long Gonzalez would keep his shutout streak lasted one batter, as Steve Pearce hit a one-out solo home run in the first to give the Orioles an early lead. After a clean second, the wheels came off a bit in the third. A popout and a strikeout left the bases empty with two outs, but the Orioles went walk, single, double to drive in a run and put two in scoring position. Up next, Ian Desmond fielded a grounder from Nelson Cruz, but his throw to third flew over Anthony Rendon’s head and allowed two runs to score, putting Baltimore on top, 4-0.
If a 4-0 deficit weren’t bad enough, the Nationals’ offense had absolutely nothing going against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen (W, 9-3). Chen had faced the minimum through three innings, giving up his lone baserunner on a single to Wilson Ramos, but erasing him with a double play.
But the tide turned in the Nats’ favor after the third, both on offense and on defense. The Nats knocked at least two hits in each of the next three innings, scoring three runs on a Ryan Zimmerman single, a Jayson Werth solo homer (his second in two games) and a Desmond double.
Gonzalez gave up two singles in the fourth, but was perfect in the fifth and sixth to give his offense a chance. Going up to 109 pitches, he was yanked before the end of the seventh, but his final line was sterling: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K.
Trailing 4-3, the Nats’ final good chance came in the eighth. Adam LaRoche doubled and Bryce Harper was intentionally walked, giving the Nats two on with two outs. Desmond was denied a shot at his customary hit after an intentional walk, as Darren O’Day’s pitch came in on him and nailed his hand, forcing him from the game for the next half inning. Fortunately, x-rays showed no damage. But Ramos could not cash in with the sacks packed, flying out to right. The Nats went meekly in the ninth, ending the series with a split of the two games in Baltimore.
Up next are the last place Philadelphia Phillies, though they are fresh off a four-game road sweep of the first place Milwaukee Brewers.