Nationals 4, Colorado 1
Lost in the hoopla of All-Star ins (Bryce Harper) and outs (Ian Desmond) was a game that the Nats actually won on Saturday. It wasn’t pretty. The Rockies pretty much handed it to them on a platter with two errors and a wild pitch in the decisive sixth inning. But multiple players have noted this week that they are good enough now to make team pay for those kinds of transgressions. They did so again in a 4-1 victory at scorching Nationals Park on Saturday.
Hopefully this will be the hottest game-time temperature of the year. If not, we’re all in trouble. It was 101 degrees at game time – hot enough to test even a South Florida native like Gio Gonzalez, who shook off the heat with six strong innings of one-run ball. Just got to make use of the ammonia towel over the head in between innings and try to pretend you’re actually cool.
“In Florida we know that heat. I was just trying to adapt to it and keep going,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve lost a ton of weight from it, but at the same time I got my liquids in me, that’s for sure. Just got to keep fighting right through it.”
What he did not do was succumb to an IV – as teammate and fellow National League All-Star Stephen Strasburg and some other Nats pitchers did the other day before his start. Gonzalez was going out into the sun au natural. Or something.
“I didn’t get an IV, absolutely not,” Gonzalez joked. “I think it would be an insult to our Latin heritage down in Miami. If I told them that they would be pretty mad, so definitely not.”
He didn’t need it with three hits allowed in six innings. The defense behind him – Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa come to mind at third base and second base – was excellent and in stark contrast to the four errors Colorado made. Gonzalez had a high pitch count early, but started using his change-up more from the third inning on.
“He was going to fight me again after throwing 100 pitches in a tie ballgame, he didn’t want to leave the game tied,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘You’re done. You’re not talking me out of nothing. And we’ll get you a win right here.’ Thank goodness we got him a win. But he pitched great.”
Washington struggled with Rockies starter Jeff Francis, a veteran lefty who began the year in the Cincinnati Reds organization before returning to Colorado, where he spent the first six seasons of his career. Last season the Canadian pitched in Kansas City. On June 25 in Denver Francis kept the Nats off balance with two runs allowed in five innings. He gave up five hits in that one. He gave up six hits on Saturday and was charged with three runs before departing after facing two batters in the sixth.
“That guy gave us the same problems in Colorado. He pitches exactly opposite of anybody,” Johnson said. “He throws his fastball when he’s ahead in the count. All that. Changeup, slow hook, when he’s behind. I thought we adjusted better, I thought we had better at-bats against him than we did out there. I was pleased with the patience we had.”
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