Lefty is first D.C. hurler to hit mark since 1953
By the end of the fourth inning, the result was no longer in doubt. Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez was well on his way to his 20th victory of the season and had even entered his name in the record books next to the great Walter Johnson. Not bad for a day's work.
Gonzalez pitched seven solid innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday afternoon, allowing just two unearned runs after an outfield error in the sixth inning. He had no need for his teammates' offensive explosion in the eventual 10-4 victory at Nationals Park but was more than happy to accept.
Gonzalez (20-8, 2.84 ERA) became the first D.C.-based pitcher to win 20 games in a season since Bob Porterfield did it for the Senators in 1953. Acquired from the Oakland A's in an offseason trade, Gonzalez has been everything the Nats hoped for. His five strikeouts gave him an even 200 for the season. He is the first Washington pitcher to do that since Johnson struck out 228 in 1916.
"It doesn't feel like a 20th win for myself. It feels like a 20th win for the team," Gonzalez said. "It's one of those things you could just smile about it. This is a childhood dream, but at the same [time] to do it with a team that's in first place makes it that much better."
In the process he helped the Nats (92-58) shake off a rough 4-2 defeat Friday night in which they led 2-1 in the ninth inning. So did the offense. The top seven batters in Washington's order -- Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa -- were a combined 13-for-23 with three doubles, three home runs, six walks and nine RBI.
Zimmerman and Desmond both hit three-run homers off former teammate Livan Hernandez in the decisive fourth inning as Washington broke the game open 9-0.
"We're friends and we'll always be friends, but he's not my friend when he's pitching, and I think he would probably say the same thing about me," Zimmerman said of Hernandez. "But it was a big at-bat to give us a little extra cushion."
The Brewers (78-73) had their six-game winning streak snapped and lost a game in the National League wild-card chase to the St. Louis Cardinals. Taylor Green hit a two-run homer off Washington reliever Christian Garcia in the ninth inning, but by then it was far too late.
Gonzalez gave up a solid single to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun in the first inning and then nothing out of the infield again until Norichika Aoki doubled in the sixth. Harper was then charged with a tough error running down Rickie Weeks' long drive to center. Both runners scored, but the runs were not earned. Gonzalez retired the Brewers in order in the seventh to complete his day in an efficient 90 pitches.
"Pitching is the main thing in baseball, and when you can win 20, that's the mark of [a] Cy Young [winner]," manager Davey Johnson said. "He's had just a phenomenal year. That was just a typical Gio game."