Bats finally wake up, Gio rolls through
A booming shot to right-center by Danny Espinosa that averted the glove of Shin-Soo Choo was the first sign that the quiet bats and bad luck of the Washington Nationals were in the past. An inning later, when Espinosa ripped a shot just inside the right-field foul pole, bringing home the Nats' fifth and sixth runs, it was official.
For a night at least, the Nationals looked like the team that inspired bold preseason proclamations of greatness. With Gio Gonzalez limiting the Cincinnati Reds to one hit over eight dominant innings and Bryce Harper and Espinosa each blasting a home run and a double, Washington rolled to an 8-1 victory before 24,748 at Nationals Park.
The emphatic win snapped the Nats' four-game losing streak in which they had scored a combined four runs and got them back to .500. Washington battered Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo (2-2) and two relievers for 12 hits, including three by Denard Span, who had as many RBIs, and two by Ian Desmond.
The best news was the return to form of Gonzalez (2-1), who walked two and fanned seven, throwing 112 pitches. The Reds have always been an easy mark for the left-hander, who has limited them three earned runs in 27 career innings. On Thursday, Gonzalez retired the first 11 Reds before lefty-hitting Joey Votto homered to the opposite field in the fourth inning.
After that, pitching with a five-run lead, Gonzalez breezed through the Cincinnati lineup, not allowing another runner past second base.
The alterations manager Davey Johnson made to the Nationals lineup didn't appear to spark the offensive revival. Steve Lombardozzi, playing third base and batting second, went 0-for-5. Jayson Werth, moving to the cleanup spot to offer more protection for Harper, went 1-for-4, while Adam LaRoche, dropping a notch to No. 5, continued his slumping ways, going 0-for-4. But expect Johnson to stick with some facsimile of this lineup when the Nationals face the Reds on Friday night.
Espinosa's breakout came after he had gotten just three hits in his previous 28 at-bats. His double in the second inning plated Desmond and he later scored on a single by Span.
Harper opened the third inning with a high-trajectory home run to center, his eighth of the season, a new Nats record for April. Later in the inning, Desmond scored Werth with a ground out and Espinosa hit his two-run blast, his second home run of the year, for a 6-1 lead. In the eighth inning, Span completed the scoring with a two-run triple to left-center.
There were other positive signs as Washington played errorless ball in the field and recently underemployed closer Rafael Soriano worked a solid ninth inning, facing just three batters.
On Friday night, right-handers Jordan Zimmermann (3-1) of the Nats and Homer Bailey (1-1) of the Reds square off.