A night after hitting six homers for the first time in Washington, D.C. the Nationals did it again. This time getting homers from Bernadina, Harper, LaRoche, Desmond, Espinosa, and Harper again. With this two homer game Bryce Harper has passed Ken Griffey Jr. on the list for must homers by a 19 year old. Harper now stands alone in third behind Mel Ott and Tony Conigliaro. As impressive as Harper was this game belonged to Gio.
Through the first two innings Gio was perfect until a grounder was hit to Desmond and he made a low throw that LaRoche was unable to pick. After that Gio continued the no-hitter until the sixth inning when Darwin Barney led it off with a single. In total Gio Gonzalez would through seven innings of shutout ball allowing three hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. It was an impressive performance and earned Gio his 18th win on the season.
The last earned run allowed by Gio was two starts ago in Philadelphia when John Mayberry Jr. hit a sixth inning go ahead homer off of Gio. Since allowing that homer Gio has thrown 16 shutout innings. As a Washington National Gio Gonzalez has been one of the best starters in the NL, and coming into tonight the only NL starter with a FIP lower than Gio’s is teammate Stephen Strasburg.
This game illustrates what the Nationals are. They are a team. Every single starting position player reached base at least once. The Nationals don’t have a single position player in the top ten in WAR, and yet the Nationals rank sixth in baseball in WAR for position players. The biggest contributors to this game may have been Bryce Harper and Gio Gonzalez, but this was a total team effort and how the Nationals have won all season long.
Coming into this season the Nationals were thought to have a good pitching staff and a below average offense, and while the offense has been well above average since the All-Star Break many would still have suggested the Braves had a better offense. Guess what? After tonight’s games the Braves have scored 214 runs and the Nats 212. The Nats have also played one less game. Meaning the Nationals are averaging 4.50 runs a game and the Braves 4.48. Compare the infield defense and the pitching staff and it is starting to look like the Nats are the favorites in the NL East.