While the Nationals were busy mopping up wins against the bottom of the AL East the Yankees were busy dominating the middle of the NL East. With both teams in first place in their respective divisions and each riding a six game winning streak a sellout crowd was on hand to see if the Nationals could hang with the big boys. For six innings that is what the Nationals did, but the power and the patience of the Yankees was too much for the Nats to overcome.
Over the years the Yankees have made a habit of frustrating pitchers by refusing to swing at any pitch that may be close to the strikezone. The Yankee batter would rather make a pitcher go to 3-2 and strikeout than ground out on the second or third pitch. In this way they or one of their teammates will be able to get that pitcher later, and that is what the Yankees were able to do to Gio Gonzalez.
Through the first two innings of this ballgame Gio recorded five of his six outs on strikeouts, but took over 40 pitches to do so. By the time the line-up turned over in the third the Yankees had seen everything Gio had to offer and had made him work to earn his outs. Gio got the first batter he faced, but then Yankees lead-off hitter and captain Derek Jeter came to the plate and lined a double off the out of town scored board. Gio then retired Granderson on a line-out and was one out away from getting out of the inning, but Teixeira would walk and A-Rod would hit a slow roller that found its way through the infield. Swisher would finish off the inning with a single that scored Teixeira and led to A-Rod getting caught in a rundown.
The Nationals were able to answer in the bottom of the third with two straight singles by Lombo and Harper to start the inning before Zimmerman flied out and LaRoche walked. With the bases loaded and one out Michael Morse stepped to the plate. Morse is still mostly searching for his swing since returning from the DL, but in this at bat he momentarily found it as he was able to turn on an inside pitch and line it up the middle for an RBI single. With Harper being held at third Desmond stepped to the plate with the bases still loaded and only one out. Desmond grounded a ball hard but Jeter was there and able to turn a 6-4-3 double play that ended the inning and the Nationals threat.
Both innings could have been much worse for both pitchers but they were both able to settle down and Gio retired the next nine batters he faced and Hughes the next eight. The problem for the Nationals was that Gio’s pitch count was running high, but he was looking like he had settled into a rhythm and had the game under control. Davey Johnson made the decision to let Gio start the seventh inning but he would have a short leash. After Andruw Jones hit a soft ground ball that rolled past a diving Zimmerman and under the glove of a lunging Desmond, Gio’s night was finished.
With Dewayne Wise entering the game as a pinch hitter it would be up to Brad Lidge to keep the Yankees from scoring anymore runs and keep this game within reach for the Nationals. This task was too much for Brad Lidge as he walked the first batter he faced before the Yankees kindly gave him an out with a sac bunt by number eight man Jayson Nix. The Nats would intentionally walk pinch hitter Robinson Cano and pitch to Derek Jeter with the bases loaded. Jeter hit a ball deep in the hole and Desmond ranged for it. With Jeter rushing down the line Desmond hurried his throw and even if LaRoche had gloved it it looked like Jeter would have been safe. The real problem was that Desmond’s throw skipped to the dugout screen and allowed an additional run to score. After Granderson hit a double to score Cano and Jeter the Yankees had found the big inning they were looking for and the Nats had fallen into the big inning they were looking to avoid.
With the game now out of reach for the Nationals they plodded on into the night. Gorzelanny came on for the eighth and ninth innings and was able to get the Nats through most of it unscathed save for Curtis Granderson’s 20th homer of the season that landed deep into the Nats bullpen. In the bottom of the ninth facing fresh off the DL David Robertson the Nationals were able to score a run on a Michael Morse double and pair of groundouts but they were just too far behind to amount any type of real threat to the Yankees lead.
With the loss the Nationals fall to 14 games over .500 and will look to tie up the series tomorrow as Jordan Zimmermann takes on Andy Pettitte at 1:05 at Nationals Park.