While horses raced, the Washington Nationals (11-14) played a pretty good baseball game. For the second time in three nights, they defeated the New York Mets (16-9) at Citi Field, this time winning by a final of 1-0.
In this game one run proved to be enough. Led by a strong start from Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals had an excellent night on the mound.
Gonzalez Strikes Out Nine
Entering tonight, Gonzalez had produced mixed results in 2015, with a 5.01 ERA and a 4.2 BB/9 rate among his worst numbers. Tonight marked a reversal of fortune, as he stifled the Mets over seven innings, allowing six hits while walking two and striking out nine. That strikeout total is the left-hander’s highest of the season.
The most encouraging aspect of Gonzalez’s performance was his efficiency. After throwing 94 pitches over five frames in his last start, he managed to fit 111 into his workload tonight, hurling 74 strikes.
With his start, Gonzalez also set the tone for the Nationals’ relief corps. The trio of Aaron Barrett, Matt Grace, and Drew Storen combined for two perfect innings to end the game, with Storen earning the save.
Desmond Snaps His Skid, Sparks Rally
In a stretch that dated back to April 25, Ian Desmond was 0-for-27 over his last seven games. He finally snapped his slump tonight and wound up scoring the game’s decisive run. With one out in the top of the second, Desmond hit a single that deflected off the glove of second baseman Dilson Herrera. That was followed by a Danny Espinosa single, before Gonzalez’s sacrifice bunt set up an RBI single by Michael Taylor.
Desmond finished the night 2-for-4, making him one of three Nationals to compile multiple hits. Considering that he had been hitting well before he fell into his slump, hopefully tonight can spark a turnaround.
The victory might not have been possible without a crucial defensive play in the bottom of the first. With Juan Lagares on first with one out, Lucas Duda hit a ball over left fielder Jayson Werth’s head and into the corner.
Lagares was running all the way and looked as if he would score, but Werth got to the ball quickly and fired a perfect strike to Desmond, his relay man. Without hesitation, Desmond fired the ball to catcher Wilson Ramos and nabbed Lagares by a good distance.
For all the defensive struggles the Nationals had in April, they have been playing cleaner games of late. Over their first three games in New York, the Nationals have not committed an error.
While there is no point in making too much of one play, it has been clear that the Nationals need to play better defense if they are to play their way into contention. Tonight’s play was a positive sign, not only for its execution, but for the fact that it ultimately saved the game.
The Nationals will go for a series victory tomorrow afternoon at 1:10 pm. Doug Fister is slated to take the ball for the Nationals, while the Mets will counter with Dillon Gee.