Davey Johnson on Gio: 'Good first outing'
Game in a nutshell: Two games. Two great pitching performances. Two clutch hitting performances. Two shutout victories. What more could the Nationals ask for? (Well, besides warmer temperatures than the 45-degree bone-chiller they were treated to tonight.) The star in Game 2 was Gio Gonzalez, who not only tossed six scoreless innings but also crushed a fifth-inning homer, providing the only offense the Nats would need. They did tack on a couple of insurance runs for good measure, taking advantage of an error in the seventh and then taking advantage of Bryce Harper's double and Ryan Zimmerman's RBI single in the eighth. Drew Storen opened his season in fine form, retiring the side in the eighth. And Rafael Soriano escaped a ninth-inning jam, earning his second save in as many tries. Thus, the Nationals are 2-0, with a pitching staff that still sports a 0.00 ERA. What's not to like?
Hitting highlight: We could highlight Denard Span's three times reaching base (two walks and a double) but come on, how can we ignore the biggest blast of the night, by none other than the starting pitcher? Gonzalez had gone deep once before in his career, sending one over the short left-field fence in Houston last summer. This one, though, was far more shocking. It was a legit blast, into the wind on a cold night. And it earned the second curtain call in as many games at Nationals Park. Gio happily obliged, rising to the top step of the dugout and waving to the adoring crowd.
Pitching highlight: Though the end result was overwhelmingly positive, Gonzalez was far from sharp through most of his season debut. He ran up seven full counts, five of them in the first three innings alone. His fastball command was mostly at fault, but the lefty more than made up for it with a superb curveball, leading to five strikeouts. He got Giancarlo Stanton swinging twice, including a big out to end the sixth and strand the tying run on second base. But at that point, Gonzalez's pitch count was already at 91. Not wanting to push his No. 2 starter more than that on a cold night in April, Davey Johnson turned things over to his bullpen right then and there. No complaints from Gonzalez, who was happy to get his season off to such a strong start.
Key stat: With a first-inning single, Bryce Harper extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Wait, how is that possible when the Nats have only played two games this year? Well, MLB officially recognizes streaks like that that stretch over two seasons. There is one catch, though: It only includes regular-season games. Harper didn't record a hit in all five Division Series games.
Up next: The series wraps up tomorrow with a late-afternoon matinee. Jordan Zimmermann's first pitch against lefty Wade LeBlanc is scheduled for 4:05 p.m.