In what has been the most inconsistent season of Gio Gonzalez' career in Washington - and so far his worst overall since 2009 - the ups and downs have been dramatic and steep.
When Gio is on, he's looked like the two-time All-Star whose career ERA is 3.59. Putting together an extended stretch of strong outings, however, has been a challenge.
In Thursday's 10-4 loss to the Phillies, Gonzalez lasted just 3 2/3 innings before Matt Williams pulled the plug. Gonzalez walked off the mound shouting into his glove with five earned runs on the scoresheet.
"It was just that kind of night," he said. "Nothing was going our way. You’ve just got to grind through it."
Gio is right about that. In a game the Nationals lost by six runs, a five-run fourth for Philly was the big haymaker. But throughout the game there was a litany of defensive mistakes committed by Nats infielders and plenty of well-placed hits by the Phillies.
Gonzalez' forgetful fourth inning began with two singles by Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz, before Grady Sizemore snapped a double off the wall in right-center to score both baserunners.
Gonzalez gave Sizemore six straight fastballs, the final a 93 mile per hour four-seamer. Though it was the biggest hit of the night against Gio, he thought it was a well-executed pitch.
"Even the pitch I threw to Sizemore, I thought it was a good pitch down and he still got it. He got some good wood on it. You just tip your cap. Sometimes it goes that way."
In his 3 2/3 innings, Gonzalez allowed eight hits and a walk. Of the eight hits, seven of them were singles. The Phillies weren't crushing the ball, but the hits were falling.
Catcher Wilson Ramos gave his diagnosis:
"There was a lot of pitches in the middle of the zone," he said. "That was the problem today. A lot of pitches up in the zone, too. So those guys hit the ball well, all the credit for them."
Gonzalez now sits 6-7 on the year with a 3.88 ERA through 17 starts, a stretch of 97 1/3 innings. Of his 17 outings this year, 10 have been quality starts, but only once has he put together more than two in a row.
Five times already this year he has allowed four earned runs or more. In 2013 he did it seven times total in 32 starts, in 2012 it was just six times in 32 starts.
Gonzalez did deal with his first stint on the disabled list this season when he went down in mid-May with shoulder inflammation, but that was eight starts ago. Gio is healthy, he just isn't pitching like the Nationals are used to.
"He’s fine," Williams said. "There’s no issue with his shoulder or anything like that. He’s just off."
"You’ve just got to keep grinding through it," Gonzalez explained. "Hopefully, something snaps and it goes your way."