BALTIMORE (AP) -- I'll Have Another waited a little longer to catch Bodemeister in the stretch this time, and now that he's done it twice in a row it's time for a Triple Crown try in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks. With a breathtaking closing rush, the smooth-striding colt won the Preakness Stakes by a neck at Pimlico Race Course on a sunny Saturday, a dramatic finish that topped his win two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby. The race unfolded the same way as the Derby, with the speedy Bodemeister moving to the lead under Mike Smith, with I'll Have Another hanging back in fourth in the 11-horse field. The early fractions were slower than the Derby, but when it came time for Bodemeister to hang on, I'll Have Another found another gear under young jockey Mario Gutierrez and ran down trainer Bob Baffert's horse in the shadow of the wire. "We're thinking Triple Crown, baby," an elated trainer Doug O'Neill said. "He's a special horse. We'll see how he comes out of it, and if he comes out of it in good shape, we're heading to New York, baby." It's been 34 years since Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont and became the 11th and most recent Triple Crown champion. Since then, 11 horses have won the first two legs only to come up short in the Belmont. The most recent try came in 2008, when Big Brown was pulled up around the turn for home and did not finish. Before that, Smarty Jones was run down in the final 70 yards by Birdstone in the 2005 Belmont. If margins are an indication, perhaps I'll Have Another has a Triple Crown in his future. Affirmed won the Derby by the identical 1 lengths over Alydar, and then beat his rival by the same neck margin in the Preakness. "I didn't feel confident we were going to get there until 10 yards from the wire," owner J. Paul Reddam said. I'll Have Another, sent off as the second choice at 3-1 over 8-5 favorite Bodemeister, covered the 1 316 miles in 1:55.94. The winner returned 8.40, 3.80 and 2.80. Bodemeister returned 3.20 and 2.80, and Creative Cause paid 3.60 to show.
Gio Gonzalez' seesaw 2016 regular season is officially in the books. Next stop: the NL Division Series where he will face the L.A. Dodgers, likely in Game 3 and possibly with one of the two teams' season on the line. Either way, it will be important.
Over the years, teams have trotted out far less accomplished pitchers in playoff games, ones with nothing close to the track record of Gonzalez. And for long stretches this season, he has been effective, like in July and August when he held a 3.16 ERA across 11 starts.
But a lot has happened since August for Gonzalez, both on the field and off of it. In his five starts since, he's given up 19 runs in 23 innings. That stretch includes his 3 2/3 innings on Wednesday night against the Diamondbacks, when he gave up three runs on eight hits and three walks and threw a whopping 100 pitches.
Just in time for the playoffs.
The Nationals have an unenviable situation without Stephen Strasburg, who is rehabbing a right flexor strain, and with Joe Ross still building his workload. They better hope the version of Gio Gonzalez they see in the NLDS is better than the one they have witnessed over the last several weeks.
“It wasn’t that good, but we didn’t score any runs either. He had a lot of pitches in a short period of time," manager Dusty Baker said after the Nats' 3-0, rain-shortened loss.
"They ran his pitch count up. They didn’t swing at very many balls and it looked like they were trying to wait on his fastball."
Gonzalez will now have to make adjustments in bullpen sessions over the course of the next 12 days. He will have to do that with a lot on his mind. Gonzalez heads to the funeral of close friend Jose Fernandez on Thursday and was pitching with extra emotion against Arizona.
“He’s an emotional-type guy," Baker said. "I talked to him a little bit about Fernandez and he was pitching for him and for us. Just wasn’t a very good night."
Now Gonzalez will have plenty of time to grieve and recalibrate before he sees the Dodgers. Whether that hurts or helps has yet to be determined.
“It can [help]. Just depends on, not only can it reset him, but after things have subsided some… they say time heals all wounds, but some wounds take longer to heal," Baker said.
"It probably won’t really set in until after the season when he’s back in Miami and around and Jose’s not around. Hopefully, he can have a couple good ‘pens and get it back together because we’re certainly going to need him come playoff time."
Gonzalez does have some success against the Dodgers to build off of. He holds a 1.69 ERA across 32 innings vs. L.A. since 2012 and held them to one run through six earlier this season.
Gonzalez is also just ready for a fresh start.
"You start the postseason with a zero ERA. It's a new series. New way to look at it," he said.
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Even when things are going well in Dallas it seems like controversy is never too far away. The latest stems from wide receiver Dez Bryant injuring his right knee during last Sunday's victory over the Bears.
News of the severity of the injury did not emerge until Wednesday, when Cowboys coach Jason Garrett revealed Bryant suffered a hairline fracture where his tibia bone hits the knee.
Why the wait? Reports from Dallas show that Bryant missed his scheduled MRI on Tuesday and the tests could not be held until Wednesday. Bryant also missed team meetings on Tuesday.
Due to missing the meetings and MRI Tuesday, Bryant has been fined an undisclosed amount, per the reports.
The injury comes at a tough time for the Cowboys as the offense has moved the ball well with rookie QB Dak Prescott.
Dallas has won two games in a row after a narrow loss to the Giants to open the year. In three games, Bryant has 150 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Against Washington in Week 2, Bryant went for more than 100 yards receiving. Late in that game, the Redskins began to shadow Bryant with Josh Norman.