Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez could only shake his head. His view from the mound during Friday night’s brilliant start against the St. Louis Cardinals was of Kurt Suzuki, his catcher, Mike Muchlinski, the home-plate umpire and…his mom, Yolanda?
Mom has been a vocal presence at her son’s games since he was a little kid. That doesn’t change just because you’re a big leaguer. So when she scored seats behind home plate to watch Gonzalez toss a complete-game shutout there was no louder voice urging him on from the stands.
“It was like ‘Uh-oh, can’t disappoint you, Ma.’ You could hear every at-bat: ‘Swing!’ or ‘Do this!’ I was like, ‘Oh god, somebody’s got to keep her quiet over there,” Gonzalez said with a weary smile. “My dad disappeared. My dad was somewhere in the stands, probably in left field or something. But one of those things where you have your whole family here, you want to step it up and enjoy it.”
How could they not? It was Gonzalez’ first complete-game shutout. The Nats have now outscored the Cardinals 18-1 in the series and their starting pitchers, including Edwin Jackson in Thursday’s 8-1 win, have combined for 17 innings to give the bullpen basically two nights off.
“[Gonzalez] has been good all year, but I think throughout the year he’s kind of learned how to pitch a little bit more,” teammate Ryan Zimmerman said. “He’s still young. He’s got a lot of learning left to do, but I think he’s matured a little this year as far as not throwing so many pitches, learning how to get guys to get themselves out without having to strike everyone out. But a complete game shutout is pretty much as good as you can get.”
Gonzalez improved to 17-7 and with possibly six starts left in the regular season he has a decent chance at winning 20 games. He also lowered his ERA to 3.10. Nats manager Davey Johnson had his lefty on a pitch count of about 120 and was relieved when St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina skied a pop up to center to end it on pitch number 119.
“I’m always complaining about I need to go out there and keep pitching, keep pitching. My pitch count doesn’t matter,” Gonzalez said. “And finally when I step it up and tell [Johnson] ‘That’s it, I’m good with eight,’ Davey goes ‘I don’t want to hear it’ and [pitching coach Steve McCatty] says ‘You’re going out there.’ So I said I’m going to give it one more good inning.”
He gave up an infield hit and a walk in that ninth as he labored to end the Cardinals. Gonzalez received a boost of energy from the crowd of 29,944 chanting “Gio! Gio!” during the final two innings. He compared it to drinking a Red Bull. So while he waited for that final pop fly to land in center fielder Bryce Harper’s glove, Gonzalez just stared with his hands on his hips and showed little emotion afterwards save a smile.
“’Catch it please, Bryce.’ That’s all I had left in the tank,” Gonzalez said. “As soon as he caught it, I just stood there, closed my eyes for a second, or probably not, and gave Suzuki a big smile and a handshake. It’s a great win for us all.”
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