Left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez had a shaky start to Thursday night’s interleague game between his Washington Nationals and the Tampa Bay Rays. Gonzalez faced seven batters in the second, allowing the Rays to take an early 1-0 lead, but the Nats came back from behind for a 5-2 victory.
Gonzalez had a lot of trouble, according to Manager Davey Johnson, due to “missing the plate” or at least that’s what home plate umpire Cory Blaser thought of his performance. He threw 98 pitches, 58 for strikes, over six innings and gave up seven hits, two runs, and two walks while striking out four and throwing one wild pitch. The minor setback was to no avail for Tampa Bay, though, because the Nats regained a temporary lead in the third inning before taking it all back in the sixth.
Second baseman and switch hitter Danny Espinosa went 2-for-4 and had a hand the two plays that put the Nats ahead to beat the Rays. Rookie left-handed starter Matt Moore gave the Nats some trouble but they still managed three hits and two runs off of him over five innings pitched. Moore’s struggles in the third came directly after Gio’s shaky second inning. That’s when Espinosa and outfielder Bryce Harper scored to take the Nats’ first lead of the night.
Espinosa and Harper drew back-to-back leadoff walks. Both then proceeded to steal a base, putting themselves each in scoring position during a Michael Morse at-bat. Morse he hit a sacrifice fly off of Moore allowing Espinosa to score the first run of the game with one-out. Shortstop Ian Desmond followed suit by hitting a single up the middle sending Harper around for run number two.
Former Nats reliever and talk of the town/baseball this week, Joel Peralta, gave away the game for the Rays in the bottom of the sixth after they took a one-run lead just a half inning earlier. Catcher Jesus Flores hit a two-out double off Peralta to get into scoring. position. Pinch hitter Adam LaRoche was intentionally walked directly following that play, which then lead to Espinosa’s go-ahead double that allowed two more runs to score.
The Washington bullpen went through three different relievers in the seventh inning but managed to hold Tampa Bay and retain their 4-2 lead which they then extended by one more run in the bottom of that same inning. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman went 1-for-3 Thursday after striking out three times (twice looking). Zimmerman scored on a two-out Roger Bernadina double off of right-handed Rays reliever Wade Davis giving the Nats a sturdy 5-2 lead.
Johnson expressed that he felt the game was a good one overall all with the exception of the seventh inning when no one in the bullpen could manage the find the plate. In the end, though, it marked Washington’s fortieth win this season. The Nats maintain a 3.5 game lead over the second place Mets in the NL East.