Quick Links

Instant Analysis: Gio bounces back

825817.png

Instant Analysis: Gio bounces back

Game in a nutshell: In a rematch of last week's All-Star pitching showdown, Gio Gonzalez got the best of R.A. Dickey this time around. The Nationals lefty was brilliant, allowing just one unearned run and two hits over seven standout innings. Dickey matched his counterpart pitch for pitch through five innings, but then the floodgates opened. Adam LaRoche launched a two-run homer, one of five consecutive hits by the Nationals off Dickey during a four-run sixth. Manager Davey Johnson pulled Gonzalez after only 87 pitches, and Ryan Mattheus gave everyone a scare when he served up a pinch-hit homer to (who else?) Jordany Valdespin. But Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard slammed the door shut and gave the Nats their fourth straight win. At 57-39, they're 18 games over .500 for the first time this season.

Hitting highlight: How hard is it to hit Dickey's knuckleball? Very hard. Just look at the way most of the Nationals flailed away at the veteran's trademark pitch for five innings. But then LaRoche got a hold of one in the top of the sixth and sent it flying deep into the Flushing night. It finally landed in the second deck above the right-field fence, a bomb from the veteran first baseman for his 17th homer of the season, tied with Ian Desmond for the team lead.

Pitching highlight: Coming off his worst start of the season, Gonzalez might well have authored his best start of the season. The only run he surrendered was unearned, a byproduct of Danny Espinosa's throwing error. He allowed only two hits, both singles. He walked two, struck out four and was incredibly efficient, needing only 87 pitches to complete seven innings. That was exactly what the Nats needed, and it was exactly what Gonzalez needed to get himself back on track after a sub-par month. Not that the club was significantly worried, but everyone understands how important Gio will be to this team's chances down the stretch.

Key stat: The Nats scored more runs off Dickey in the top of the sixth (four) than he had given up in all but four starts this season.

Up next: The series concludes with a Wednesday matinee featuring Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hefner. First pitch at Citi Field is bright and early at 12:10 p.m.

Quick Links

Harper Among 4 Nats' Starters Out Vs. Padres Sunday

Harper Among 4 Nats' Starters Out Vs. Padres Sunday

National League home run leader Bryce Harper is among four starters out of the lineup for the Washington Nationals in their series finale against the San Diego Padres on Sunday.

Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth and Matt Wieters also did not start for the Nationals, who open a nine-game, 10-day road trip Monday afternoon in San Francisco.

Murphy missed the previous two games due to illness, Chris Speier said Saturday. Speier, serving as acting manager with Dusty Baker away this weekend to attend his son Darren's high school graduation in California, did not meet with the media before Sunday's game.

RELATED: Nationals' Joe Ross to Start Against Team That Drafted Him

Harper is batting .337 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs.

Washington won the first two matchups in the three-game series.

Joe Ross (2-0, 5.32) faces fellow right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-4, 5.74) on Sunday.

Quick Links

Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

WASHINGTON -- On Dec. 19, 2014, the San Diego Padres traded pitcher Joe Ross and a player to be named later -- it would be Trea Turner -- to the Washington Nationals in a three-team deal that included the Tampa Bay Rays.

Since that trade, the Padres have posted a record of 160-215 while the Nationals are 208-166 after they won 3-0 Saturday as Stephen Strasburg struck out a career-high 15 batters in seven innings and the Washington staff fanned 17.

As a reminder of what could have been, Ross (2-0, 5.32) makes the start Sunday against San Diego right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-4, 5.74) in the finale of the three-game series at Nationals Park.

First-place Washington is 30-18 while last-place San Diego is 18-33.

Ross was drafted by the Padres in the first round out of his California high school in 2011. Ross is 2-0 in his career against San Diego with a 2.25 ERA in two starts. Last year, he went six innings and allowed six hits and three earned runs in a win against the Padres.

"I was not around Joe at all," said Andy Green, in his second year as the San Diego manager. "We saw him last year; he is a sinkerballer."

The Padres did acquire All-Star first baseman Wil Myers in the trade.

The Nationals have scored a record 62 runs in the four starts made this year by Ross, more than any other pitcher has received in his first four starts of a season. That included a 23-5 victory at home April 30 against the New York Mets and a 10-1 win Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners.

Ross, who broke into the majors with the Nationals in 2015, was in the rotation last season and made 19 starts before going on the disabled list. He was in line to be the No. 5 starter, but began the season at Triple-A Syracuse.

Chacin is 3-2 in six starts against Washington and has a 3.09 ERA. He has made three career starts at Nationals Park and is 1-1 with a 0.45 ERA while allowing only one run in 20 innings.

The Nationals played their second game in a row Saturday without second baseman Daniel Murphy, who was ill.

Nationals bench coach Chris Speier, filling in for manager Dusty Baker, said before the game that Murphy was ill. Murphy entered the day hitting .316 with nine homers and 33 RBIs.

"He's available. This is Dusty's theory: Usually when somebody comes in and says, 'I'm ready,' then he usually gives him one more day. But he's available," Speier told reporters before the game.

Murphy entered Saturday seventh in the National League in hits with 56, just ahead of teammate Bryce Harper (55). Murphy was also among the league leaders in multi-hit games and road batting average.

Washington shortstop Turner, drafted by the Padres in the first round out of North Carolina State, had two hits, including a homer, Friday and was 1-for-4 Saturday.

Another hot hitter for Washington is center fielder Michael A. Taylor, who hit a homer for the second day in a row Saturday and has four homers in his last 14 games.

"I'm looking for my pitch and staying in my zone," Taylor said. "I'm not trying to do too much."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg has career-high 15 strikeouts in Nationals win over Padres