On numerous occasions throughout Saturday night's disappointing start — four, to be exact — Gio Gonzalez found out first hand just how pesky the St. Louis Cardinals lineup can be.
"We knew they could hit," manager Dusty Baker said. "It's not that easy to hit with runners in scoring position."
Despite striking out the side in the first, Gonzalez had trouble finishing off the Red Birds in the following frame. He had three Cardinal hitters in two-strike, two-out situations, and they responded with a flurry: A Jedd Gyorko walk, an RBI single by Greg Garcia, and an RBI double by Matt Carpenter (which came after an RBI double from pitcher Adam Wainwright) to make it 4-0. And a few innings later, Gio was once again one strike away from escaping before allowing another RBI two-bagger, this time to Randal Grichuk to extend the lead to 6-2.
"That out pitch, we didn't have it today with two strikes," said catcher Jose Lobaton. "We needed that fastball in or that curveball in the dirt. And sometimes he threw some curveballs that really got in the dirt, and they didn't swing.....you're gonna find some good hitters, or good days for the hitters, and it's gonna happen, what happened today."
Indeed, Gonzalez' inability to put hitters away was the story of his night; five of the six earned runs he allowed came with two outs. The result was his shortest outing of the season at 4 2/3 innings.
"My biggest [disappointment] right now is how much work I’m giving my bullpen," he said afterward. "I can’t stand it.
"I’m a way better pitcher than what I’m showing out there. And it sucks that [the bullpen] guys are constantly picking up my mess. As a pitcher, I pride myself on being the guy that can go the distance and work his tail off."
Gonzalez has now allowed 13 runs over his last two starts, a troubling trend for someone that to this point was having a bounce-back campaign. In the last two outings alone, he's had his ERA rise from 1.93 to 3.57.
Of course, two poor starts does not a season make, and Gonzalez by and large has shown that he's an improved pitcher over what he was last year. That said, he'll have reclaim his good form sooner rather than later to quell any fears of a regression to 2015 Gio.
"Just continue to be strong mentally," Gonzalez said. "Just keep finding a way. Eventually it will tilt over and things will start to go my way again. And I think that’s all it is. I’ve got to be more aggressive, more positive on that mound. I can’t let it spiral out of control."