Instant Analysis: Gio bounces back

Instant Analysis: Gio bounces back
July 25, 2012, 1:48 am
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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.