courtesy of muohace_dc
On the fourth batter of the game Gio Gonzalez got Casey McGehee to swing at a 94 MPH fastball. It was the fourth fastball Gio threw to McGehee and his first strikeout of the game. In the bottom of the first Harper would hit his first career triple with one out and score on Zimmerman’s RBI ground out. Gio would continue the second where he left off the first by getting Navarro to strikeout on on the fifth fastball he threw him.
Gio would not be as kind to Rod Barajas. He would get ahead of him with fastballs and then dropped in a completely unfair curve that the word filthy can’t even begin to describe. The pitch floated to the plate and appeared to pause just long enough to taunt the swinging bat of Barajas before dropping out of the strike zone. Gio would then get ahead of Barmes with a fastball and curve ball before throwing him two fastballs out of the strike zone and then with his bat sped up he dropped a change-up that Barmes couldn’t help but swing at.
The Nats would go 1-2-3 in their half of the second inning and Gio would get a routine fly out from Harrison to start the third inning. From the moment Bedard stepped into the batters box he wanted nothing more than to return to the Pirates dugout, and even tried to do so with two strikes against him. The ump instructed him to return to the batters box and Gio granted his wish by dropping a curve into the strike zone.
Desmond would lead off the third with a homer to expand the Nats lead to 2-0 and then Bedard would go on a tear in which he would get the next eleven Nats. Six of them on strikes. Meanwhile Gio would cruise through the fourth but with no strikeouts and then run into a bit of trouble in the fifth.
The first batter of the inning, Yamaico Navarro would quickly fall behind 0-2 and then battle back to draw a walk on the ninth pitch of the at bat. Navarro earned that walk, but lead-off walks are a thing in baseball that will come back to hurt a pitcher. The very next batter, Rod Barajas, would single and Navarro would take third. Gio would then get Barmes to strikeout for the second time in the game before Josh Harrison hit a single that it looked like Harper had trouble reading off the bat. The Nats now found themselves locked in a close one run contest. A position they have become quite familiar with this season.
Erik Bedard in his second at bat of the game would try to bunt, but would foul off his two attempts at it before feebly swinging at strike three. Any encouragement the Pirates may have gotten from making this a one run game and Bedard getting them quickly back in the batters box quickly evaporated when Gio struck out Walker on a tantalizing curve ball that he thought he had held up on, but the umpires disagreed. McCutchen would then ground out to Desmond, and Gio would earn his ninth K of the game by overpowering McGehee with four fastballs, tempting him with the curve ball, and then making him swing foolishly at a change-up.
In the bottom of the sixth Bedard was still in the midst of keeping the Pirates in the game, but his great pitching would end and end emphatically when Adam LaRoche and Xavier Nady took him deep for back to back homers to give the Nats a three run lead. That lead would not last however as Barajas would walk and Harrison homer to pull the Pirates back within one. With adversity mounting and relievers warming Gio made a statement by striking out Nate McLouth on a 95 MPH fastball.
With the Pirates back within one and the back end of the Nats bullpen struggling the offense still had work to do. Jesus Flores would be hit by an Evan Meek pitch to start the Nats half of the seventh before Bernadina sac bunted and Desmond struck out. Meek would then walk Harper on four pitches to pitch to Zimmerman who he would walk on five pitches before Adam LaRoche doubled on the first pitch he saw to clear the bases and give the Nats a comfortable four run lead.
Tyler Clippard would come in for the eighth and give up a run before getting Pedro Alvarez to ground out to Espinosa. Davey had double switched Clippard into the game and if Clippard had been strong and made short work of the Pirates then he more than likely would have pitched the ninth, but that isn’t how it worked out. Instead Clippard made the game a save situation and the suddenly beleaguered Nats closer, Henry Rodriguez, would find himself on the mound in the top of the ninth protecting a three run lead.
It was a place Henry had been just a couple nights ago when he had walked the bases loaded against the Padres only to be bailed out by Sean Burnett. From the moment Rodriguez stepped on the mound in this contest Davey had Ryan Mattheus warming in the bullpen. He would not need him however as the Pirates would go down in order. Barajas would hit a grounder so sharply that it carried Desmond out into the outfield as he lost the handle on it and earned an error. The next batter, Clint Barmes, would strikeout for the third time in the game, and Josh Harrison would hit a hot shot that was handled by Zim and turned into a game ending 5-4-3 double play.
It may not have felt as easy as Gio’s ten strikeouts and the final 7-4 score make it appear, but the Nats now find themselves once again in first place in the NL East with this win and a Braves 8-4 loss to the Marlins. The short two game series against the Pirates wraps up tomorrow at Nats Park as James McDonald takes the mound for the Pirates against the Nats Jordan Zimmermann.