- Arkansas voter ID law struck down by state judge
- FDA proposes ban on e-cigarette sales to minors
- Bad omen? Italian man crushed to death by John Paul II crucifix
- Company stopped from accepting abortion waste
- Girl surprises Michelle Obama with unemployed dad’s resume
- ‘Harry Potter’ religion class seeks to enlighten students on ‘God, sin, and theodicy’
- ‘Optionally piloted’ Black Hawk helicopter clears tests; future missions to go ‘fully unmanned’
- Vice News reporter kidnapped in Ukraine is freed after being beaten, blindfolded
- FCC’s new ‘net neutrality’ proposal sparks outrage among consumer advocates
- Families of ferry’s lost confront South Korean officials
Gio Gonzalez tosses first 9-inning complete game, hits first HR in Nats’ win
HOUSTON — This was a night the Washington Nationals needed. Their beaten and beleaguered bullpen arms could only take so much. The extra-inning games, the one-run contests, the grueling stretch of schedule, it was all catching up with them.
It was obvious to them from the early innings just how dire things were. The Nationals‘ relief corps looked down their row of chairs in the bullpen Wednesday night and saw their latest addition: Edwin Jackson, Saturday’s starter. Just in case.
That’s how they sat for nine innings of relative silence. As closer Tyler Clippard put it: “There wasn’t a single ball thrown.” Gio Gonzalez made sure of it.
Pitching into the ninth inning for the first time in his career, Gonzalez threw a complete game in the 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Throwing to his old batterymate, Kurt Suzuki, he used 117 pitches to get 27 outs for the first time in his career and spared seven tired arms, at least for one night.
Just for good measure, he added his first career home run in the second inning.
“I can’t really express the need for that,” said Clippard, who has pitched on five of the last six days and was one of several unavailable relievers. “Whether Gio knew it or not, we needed a good outing from him.”
The bullpen phone rang once, when Ben Francisco hit a two-out, RBI single in the ninth that sunk into left to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. “But then they were like, ‘Never mind, this is Gio’s game,’” Clippard said.
While it took a diving stop in the ninth by Gonzalez on an overthrow by center fielder Bryce Harper that was bound for the dugout with the winning run on third base, the Nationals got their victory just after 10 p.m. local time. Gonzalez struck out Matt Downs with runners on second and third to seal the first nine-inning complete game of his career and move the Nationals 25 games over .500 (68-43). Gonzalez threw an eight-inning complete game in 2010 in an A’s loss.
“Gio couldn’t have been any better,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who mentioned before the game the possibility that his lefty could go the distance. “We hug a lot. I’m going to hug him more. My whole bullpen should hug him. What a great effort.”
Gonzalez was impeccable at limiting the damage. He gave up nine hits but walked only two. He forced the Astros to leave eight runners on base and held them to 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position. He faced the minimum in only three of his nine innings and still opened the ninth with 99 pitches. He and Suzuki wasted no time falling back into their old rhythm, even going back to the signs they used for the four years they were together with the A’s.
“Warming him up in the bullpen, I was thinking, ‘This is kind of weird, we’re in Nationals uniforms.’” Suzuki said. “But once we kind of got in the flow a little bit, it was comfortable. Same old Gio. Good movement, a lot better command and composure on the mound.”
Suzuki remembered a Gonzalez who would get into the late innings of a game and “just get so amped up he’d try to do too much.” So he made sure to talk to him as the game progressed, to keep him calm and focused. “Not trying to think, ‘I need to get this guy out,’” Suzuki said.
Even as things spiraled some in the ninth, awaking a crowd of 16,038 who’d hardly made their presence felt before then, Gonzalez remained in control. Even as his offense left 11 men on base and went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Even when home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called a balk on Gonzalez and the opposing starter, and allowed Harper to jaw at him after a strikeout.
Gonzalez remained steady.
“I wasn’t trying to think too far,” said Gonzalez, who gave up three earned runs and struck out seven. “I was just trying to go out there and pound ‘Zuk’s glove. We were working good. We were going out there, attacking the zone. After that, it was just trying to keep our team as much as possible in the game.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
- What will Nationals do this offseason to contend again in 2014?
- As Nationals' manager search begins, Randy Knorr the players' choice
- Davey Johnson's big-league journey ends with Nationals loss
- Team spirit and Holy Spirit — for Nationals religion looms large on and off the field
- Jordan Zimmermann falls short of 20th win as Cardinals prevail again
Latest Blog Entries
- A fond farewell, and a bit of thanks
- Nationals coaches wait in limbo as team searches for next manager
- Davey Johnson won't be in uniform for Nationals in spring training
- Tanner Roark starts season finale with youthful lineup behind him (UPDATED)
- Dan Haren, Nationals top Diamondbacks in season's penultimate game
By Tammy Bruce
Only IRS employees could expect rewards for failing to pay their taxes
- Holder cancels appearance in OKC amid angry protests
- 'Top Gun' for drones: Squadrons of carrier-based killers have Navy's approval
- In its hunt for Senate, Republican candidates campaign against Harry Reid
- America is an oligarchy, not a democracy or republic, university study finds
- Obamacare class-action suit opens a new legal front
- Sold out: Ukraine's leadership swapped best military weapons for cash
- Justice at last: 'Evil woman' outed for grabbing girl's game ball
- Gun control supporters send message to NRA
- Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy hailed as patriot, ripped as lawless deadbeat
- Nevada rancher's racial remarks cost him range of support
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Celebrity deaths in 2014