Gonzalez pitches Nationals past Padres
SAN DIEGO — The Washington Nationals’ first ace, Max Scherzer, went on the 10-day disabled list Friday night after pulling out of his scheduled start against the San Diego Padres.
Washington’s second ace, Stephen Strasburg, was then beaten by the Padres on Saturday night in his return from the disabled list.
However, the National League East-leading Nationals’ No. 3 pitcher came through Sunday afternoon.
“That was big,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said after left-hander Gio Gonzalez held the Padres to one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings as the National defeated the Padres 4-1 at Petco Park for their third win in the four-game series.
“We needed Gio to go as deep as he did. We needed some innings, so that was big. He took one for the team.”
The lefty allowed five hits and a walk while striking out eight. Even so, Gonzalez, who also scored Washington’s first run after drawing one of six walks issued by Padres rookie starter Dinelson Lamet in the first three innings, wished he had done more.
“I tried my best to give them seven (inning),” Gonzalez said. “My pitch count was up, but you learn there’s always that one time when you’re probably going to have to save one more out or one more inning for the bullpen.”
Counting the 4 1/3 innings that left-handed reliever Matt Grace worked Friday night in a spot start when Scherzer was a late scratch, the Nationals’ bullpen worked 13 innings in the first three games of the series.
On Sunday, the Washington relievers worked another 2 1/3 — with Sean Doolittle picking up his 11th save by striking out the side in the ninth. But it wasn’t as bad as it might have been. Gonzalez threw 55 pitches in the first three innings and finished with 121.
Gonzalez (12-5) held the Padres scoreless after the first inning while retiring 19 of the final 23 hitters he faced while lowering his earned run average to 2.39.
On the flip side, Padres manager Andy Green was not happy with either his team’s offensive effort or that of his starting pitcher.
“We had chances to win against one of the game’s best teams and we didn’t capitalize all series,” said Green.
As for Lamet?
“There’s two ways to look at it,” said Green. “This is an indication of how good he can be. On the flip side, you can’t win walking six hitters in three innings.”
Green also was upset because Lamet bunted into a forceout and failed to score from first when Nationals right fielder Alejandro De Aza dropped a deep fly with two out in the second when he lost it in the sun — a play that would have given the San Diego a 2-0 lead.
“If (Lamet) wants to be a winning pitcher, he needs to get bunts down and run the bases,” Green said. “He’s going to be really good at some time ... let’s get to work.”
“The key to this game was me not being able to command my fastball and depend on my slider to throw strike one,” Lamet said.
Actually, the Padres were wishing Lamet had thrown his slider more.
The offensive key for the Nationals was second baseman Daniel Murphy not taking a second straight day off to rest his tired legs. Before the Saturday game, Baker said Murphy had that night off and if he rested Murphy on Sunday, it would give the veteran three straight days off because the Washington has Monday off before opening a three-game series in Houston on Tuesday.
But Murphy played Sunday and drove in two runs — the first tying the game and the second breaking the tie.
Gonzalez spotted the Padres a 1-0 lead on an unearned run in the first on back-to-back, one-out singles by Jabari Blash and Jose Pirela and a two-out throwing error by Nationals shortstop Wilmer Difo. Blash scored from second on the error when Difo’s throw on Wil Myer’s grounder was wide of first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
Lamet (7-5) struggled with his command during the first three innings. He threw 34 of his first 70 pitches for balls.
Lamet walked pitching rival Gonzalez to open the third. With one out, Gonzalez moved to third on Difo’s double just beyond the reach of left fielder Pirela and scored on a Murphy sacrifice fly. Lamet walked the next two hitters and went to a full count on Anthony Rendon before striking out the third baseman with the bases loaded.
The Nationals broke through for two runs in the fifth. De Aza opened the inning with a bunt single and stole second. After Difo struck out, Murphy pulled a single to right, easily scoring De Aza.
With two outs and a runner on second, Green summoned left-handed reliever Buddy Baumann to face the left-handed Adam Lind. The strategy failed as Lind doubled home Murphy to make it 3-1. Lamet allowed three runs on three hits and six walks with eight strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.
The Nationals scored an unearned run in the eighth on a ground out by pinch hitter Howie Kendrick to make it 4-1.
NOTES: Nationals OF Jayson Werth and SS Trea Turner will both start rehab assignments Monday with Triple-A Syracuse. Turner has been on the disabled list since June 30 with a right wrist fracture. Werth has been out since June 5 with a left foot contusion. ... The first three innings were played in an hour and 15 minutes. ... The Padres finished their homestand 4-3 after opening it with a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.