Instant Analysis: Nats 2, Phillies 1

Instant Analysis: Nats 2, Phillies 1
May 22, 2012, 1:59 am
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Game in a nutshell: In the second of six head-to-head series against their fiercest division rivals, the Nationals seized control and didn't let it go (despite a very tense bottom of the ninth). Ian Desmond clubbed a second-inning homer off Kyle Kendrick to put the Nats up 1-0, then delivered an RBI single two innings later to make it 2-0. Gio Gonzalez and the bullpen then took care of matters from there. Gonzalez was dominant from the outset, tossing six scoreless innings and striking out nine. Craig Stammen then churned out two innings in the setup role. Henry Rodriguez tried to finish it off, but the erratic closer was yanked after issuing a walk, a single and two wild pitches. Sean Burnett was forced to enter and bail the Nats out, which he did in impressive fashion.
Hitting highlight: Has Desmond found a home in the 5-hole? It sure looks that way. Since getting moved out of the leadoff spot, he's 5-for-13 with three doubles, a homer and four RBI. His solo blast off Kendrick in the second was his seventh of the season, tying Adam LaRoche for the team lead. And his fourth-inning single drove in Bryce Harper with the game's only other run. Would Davey Johnson keep Desmond in that 5-spot after Michael Morse returns to the lineup in a couple weeks? It seems unlikely. But the guy certainly is producing there right now.

Pitching highlight: Once again establishing himself as one of the best swing-and-miss pitchers in baseball, Gonzalez thoroughly carved up the Phillies lineup. He struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced, all swinging. He got big groundballs when he needed them. And in the process he regained the major-league lead from Justin Verlander with 69 strikeouts. He also lowered his ERA to 1.98 while matching the NL lead with six wins. Yes, there's a really long way to go. But at this moment, Gio is a slam-dunk All-Star and would be in serious contention for the Cy Young Award.
Key stat: Stammen now has 27 strikeouts against only five walks this season. Among all major-league relievers with at least 20 innings pitched, that ranks fourth (behind Wilton Lopez, Cory Wade and Aroldis Chapman).
Up next: Jordan Zimmermann takes the mound against the Phillies for the first time since that Sunday Night Baseball incident. He'll face a stiff challenge in Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay in this 7:05 p.m. game at Citizens Bank Park.