For Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, a native of Hialeah, Florida, triple-digit heat and humidity is just part of the game of baseball. On Saturday afternoon he battled through 102 pitches in record heat, but left with his 12th victory of the season in the Nationals 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies in front of 28,032 on South Capitol St.
In Florida we know that heat. I was just trying to adapt to it and keep going. Ive lost a ton of weight from it, but at the same time I got my liquids in me, thats for sure. Just got to keep fighting right through it, he said.
Gonzalez left after the sixth inning with the game tied at one. He allowed just one run on three hits and struck out six, all along the way tying Livan Hernandez for the Nationals record for wins heading into the All-Star break. He is now tied with R.A. Dickey for the major league lead.
I dont know what kind of run support he got over there in Oakland, but hes been stingy giving up runs here, and hits, manager Davey Johnson said. Hes been very consistent. Hes been fun to watch. My whole staffs been fun to watch. But these last two times out, in the heat, hes pitched well. Against very good offensive clubs.
Gonzalez only earned run came in the fourth inning. Michael Cuddyer led off with a double down the third base line, a hard grounder that found its way just under the glove of a diving Ryan Zimmerman. Cuddyer then advanced to third on a fielders choice by Gonzalez. He was brought home by Jordan Pacheco on a sacrifice fly to right field, a play that ended close at home on a throw attempted by Michael Morse.
Despite allowing one run, the Rockies made solid contact on Gonzalez throughout his outing. He benefitted from some good defense including diving stops by Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche.
It was unbelievable that each one of these guys came in today with hot weather and they still came out and competed. They did a great job. I was just doing my best to just keep us along in the game and save the arms in the bullpen, he said.
Gonzalez was relieved by Ryan Mattheus who struck out the side in the seventh inning. Sean Burnett escaped the eighth with a runner in scoring position and Tyler Clippard earned his 13th save of the season after allowing two to reach base.
Even though the last two innings were made interesting, Gonzalez said he never doubts the men behind him.
Each one of those guys are All-Stars in my mind and Im honored to have them right behind me. Every time they come in there it almost feels like you can close your eyes and guarantee it.
The Nationals took the lead initially off an Ian Desmond solo homer to right-center field in the second inning. It was Desmonds 16th of the year which ranks sixth in the National League and tops all N.L. shortstops.
Washington scored their other three runs in the sixth inning during an interesting sequence with relief pitcher Josh Roenicke on the mound. Rockies starter Jeff Francis started the inning and let up a leadoff double by Danny Espinosa off the out-of-town scoreboard. He then allowed a floating single by Harper to move Espinosa to third, Harper almost got caught going for a double on the play but reached first safe because no one was covering the bag.
Roenicke replaced Francis to face Zimmerman who quickly pelted a line drive into left-center field. Espinosa scored on the play and Harper advanced to third. Then, on a wild pitch by Roenicke, catcher Wilin Rosario attempted to pickoff a stealing Zimmerman. The throw was off, Zimmmerman was safe, and Harper reached home for the teams third run.
Ian Desmond grounded to second later in the inning and was safe at first as the Rockies couldnt pull the double play on he and a walked Adam LaRoche. Roenicke, Desmonds brother-in-law, then tried to pick off Desmond at first. Zimmerman, who was standing at third, scored the teams fourth run as the ball got past Cuddyer at first.
The Nationals took the win and now sit at 49-33 on the season. They will go for the series win on Sunday afternoon with Jordan Zimmermann on the mound against Jeremy Guthrie of the Rockies. As the weather is expected to cool down slightly, the Nats will look to continue their momentum heading into their midseason break.