It was a cool and windy night in Washington, DC as the Washington Nationals avoided a sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It was looking grim heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, but the offense woke up and allowed the Nats to improve to 12-10 on the season.
Gio Gonzalez was locked in through five innings, striking out five batters, and carving up a fairly potent Angels offense effectively. Then, things got weird. In the sixth inning, after giving up a single to Mike Trout and a double to Albert Pujols, which allowed Trout to score from first, Matt Williams pulled his lefty after just 83 pitches in favor of Aaron Barrett.
In the post-game press conference, Matt Williams indicated that Gonzalez’s shoulder tightened up, which is why he was removed. We’ll see if it affects Gio’s availability going forward.
In other news, another “transfer rule” call came to bit the Nats in the ninth inning. Adam LaRoche made a catch on a line drive off the bat of Raul Ibanez, and when he was transferring it to his throwing hand, he dropped it. Ibanez was called safe with an error charged to LaRoche. Between this new interpretation of the transfer rule and the current implementation of instant replay, the 2014 season is off to a really tough start.
Gonzalez also provided the only offense for the majority of the game. In the second inning, Danny Espinosa got things going with a bunt single and a stolen base. He was moved to third by Jose Lobaton, and scored on a Gio Gonzalez single, giving the Nats a 1-0 lead.
The Angels started their damage in the sixth inning, beginning with Gio Gonzalez before he was pulled in the sixth. After the hits to Trout and Pujols outlined above, Erick Aybar knocked in the second run of the inning, giving the Angels the 2-1 lead. In the seventh, David Freese led off with a double, was advanced to third by JB Shuck, and scored on a wild pitch, extending the Angels lead to 3-1.
The Nats decided to wait until the end of the game to make things really interesting on offense. Lobaton hit a leadoff home run into the Nats bullpen before Denard Span singled up the middle and Anthony Rendon walked.
With runners on first and second and one out, Jayson Werth put one down the left field line that hit off the diagonal-facing wall and sent it back toward the infield. By the time JB Shuck got there, Rendon had rounded third and had headed home, tying the game at four. On the first pitch Adam LaRoche saw from Fernando Salas, he dropped one into the left-center field gap, scoring Werth and giving the Nats a walk-off win.
At times this season, Matt Williams has seemed like a manager without a distinct plan, which is ironic since his meticulous planning during spring training was discussed constantly. From the Harper benching, to the continuously variable lineups, to the fluctuating use of his bullpen, Williams is certainly acting like a first-time manager.
We’ll have more on The Nats Blog coming up, including quotes from the clubhouse from Gio Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche, and Jayson Werth.