Watching Washington Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez through the early innings of yesterday’s eventual 7-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, one would have likely had a hard time believing that the left-hander is in the running for the National League Cy Young Award. It is especially true when you consider the performance that New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey put on just a few hours earlier when he earned his 20th win of the season after tossing 7 2/3 innings, allowing just three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out 13 batters.
But if you were to check the box score after the game, Gonzalez’s start would have appeared to be business as usual – three runs on six hits and three walks while striking out six through six innings. After suffering a hiccup in the first inning, which included three walks and three runs on a lofty 37 pitches, Gonzalez settled down. The following five innings, through which he allowed not a walk or a run, required just 69 pitches.
Now, once again, Gonzalez sits atop all of baseball after earning his major league leading 21st win as he continues to build his case for the NL Cy Young. But for Gonzalez, the path to the award is still very much an uphill climb as two contenders remain in the mix – one obvious and one less so. Continue reading →
The good news coming into this weekend’s final regular-season meeting between the Washington Nationals (89-56) and the Atlanta Braves (83-63) was that a series sweep at the hands of the Braves would leave the Nationals with a still-sizeable 5 1/2 game lead in the National League East. Of course, no one really expected that the Nationals would find themselves in such a position come Monday morning; but barring a win in tonight’s finale, it is exactly where they will find themselves, which explains the team’s renewed sense of urgency regarding the game.
“You don’t want to get swept anywhere, especially against the team behind you, so it’s a big game,” Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “I think they’re all pretty big from here on out.”
If the Nationals hope to avoid a sweep and lower their magic number to a single digit for the first time this season, they will need a strong showing from Gio Gonzalez, the league’s sole 19-game winner. Braves left-hander Mike Minor will oppose him. Continue reading →