After beginning Tuesday’s game with two called strikes and a strikeout on the White Sox’s first batter Alejandro De Aza, somehow Gio Gonzalez’ day quickly turned into a near disaster. He allowed the next three batters to reach base, balked in a run, and finished with 33 pitches in the first inning alone. Somewhere along the way he lost his command and lost it bad.
Gonzalez was happy with his velocity and stuff, he chalked it up more so to simply still finding his way in just his second start of the year. He mentioned six days rest as a factor as well.
“I’m still trying to get my arm where it needs to be,” he said. “Still a little kinks that I want to work on, especially attacking the strike zone and trying to get the first batter of every inning out. That’s things that I gotta work on and make sure to pound the strike zone.”
About that balk: Gonzalez let up the first run of the game by simply stepping off the mound with the wrong foot. With the bases loaded against Alexei Ramirez, Gio missed badly on the first three pitches to set up 3-0. He then battled back to force a full count before stepping back with his right foot, something home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi noticed right away.
Gonzalez took the earned run on the balk, his only of the day despite throwing 99 pitches through just five innings of work. He continued to labor through the 80-degree evening searching for the strike zone, but escaping innings unscathed.
“He’s done that before, but not quite that bad,” manager Davey Johnson said. “I guess he was just missing, I mean just off the plate. 100 pitches through five is usually not Gio. He had good stuff, just didn’t throw it over.”
Gonzalez threw 57 strikes on the day, battling through an order that took pitches and stayed patient at the plate. He was familiar with their approach having pitched in Oakland and as a once-member of the organization.
“They are just patient guys. I learned that with the American League, they’re very patient,” he said. “They want to make sure to select one pitch and go out there, and when they find it they put it in play. That’s exactly what they were doing. They worked up the pitch count and that’s exactly what it was. Just trying to get me out quick.”
Gonzalez was pulled after the fifth even though he still had something left in the tank. But Johnson wasn’t about to let his number two starter go further this early in the season.
“I wasn’t going to go second time out 100 pitches,” he said. “I know he wanted to continue but he wasn’t going to continue for me, simple as that.”
Despite a long day for Gonzalez, he remained in line for the win until Craig Stammen allowed the tying run in the sixth inning. He also got his second hit of the year, an opposite field drive in the third inning to right fielder Alex Rios.
Rios had thrown Bryce Harper out at second earlier in the first inning when he tried to stretch a single into a double and, for some reason, Gonzalez attempted the same move in the third. Rios threw him out fairly easily and, despite his manager agreeing with the call, Gonzalez now says he learned his lesson.
“I’m too slow,” he said. “I’ve gotta start coming to terms with, hey, if you get a hit then be content. I’m not no power runner or anything like that. I’ve got to deal with my body, I’m just getting sluggish and older. That’s all it is.”
“I’m sure if Tony [Tarasco] had the chance he would have hog tied me and pulled me back to first.”