Gio Gonzalez, Nationals Improve to 2-0 Behind Another Night of Stellar Pitching

Following an Opening Day victory that showcased two former No. 1-overall draft picks whom you may have heard of, the Washington Nationals (2-0) were poised to do it again Wednesday in a calmer environment.  In just as celebratory fashion, 2012 Cy Young runner-up Gio Gonzalez (1-0) was the star in yet another blanking of the Miami Marlins, this time the scoreboard reading 3-0.

Though the crowd at Nationals Park slimmed to 26,269 due to 17 mph winds sweeping through DC, manager Davey Johnson and co. couldn’t have been more fired up from the first inning.  After the ever-smiling Gonzalez pitched a perfect opening frame, 20-year-old sensation Bryce Harper quickly extended his now 11-game hit streak (dating back to last season) in the bottom half with a single up the middle.

21 game winner from a year ago, Gio Gonzalez had his best stuff going Wednesday and even jacked a home run to kick off his 2013 campaign on a high. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

After a quiet couple of innings, the Marlins threatened in the 5th when center fielder Justin Ruggiano hit a leadoff double, later reaching third on a double play.  Tallies wouldn’t be put on the board until the Nationals came to the plate, however, when none other than the man of the hour himself, Gio Gonzalez, jacked a solo shot to left to give the Nats a 1-0 lead.  Notably, this is Gio’s second homer as a member of the white and red, last year’s coming on Aug. 9 against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Interestingly, Gonzalez would be replaced after throwing just 91 pitches through six scoreless, giving up a mere two hits and two walks while striking out five.  The Nats experienced a similar situation Monday with Stephen Strasburg being pulled after 80 pitches, so it remains to be seen whether Davey’s going to let his star pitchers go deep into ballgames this season.

Don’t get me wrong, Bryce Harper has exhibited tremendous success to open the season, now batting .500 with a 2.000 slugging percentage and ridiculous 1.142 wOBA according to FanGraphs.  However, it’s clear that the Nationals’ bats have yet to come alive as a whole, a trend continuing from Monday into Wednesday during a relatively forgettable start by former Minnesota Twin and Denard Span teammate, Kevin Slowey.  The Marlins’ new No. 2 hadn’t pitched a major league game since 2011, yet commendably allowed just the one run in the form of a homer in five and a third of four-hit ball.  Notably, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, and Danny Espinosa are a combined 0-21 to open 2013, though it certainly shouldn’t be a cause for concern just yet.

To close out the game, Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen would come out to pitch scoreless 7th and 8th innings, respectively, with Span and Zimmerman driving in a pair to extend the lead for Washington. Newly acquired closer Rafael Soriano also earned his second save in two appearances in an uneventful 9th.

Before hitting the road to Cincinnati, the Nats will wrap up the series tomorrow at 4:05PM EST, as Wisconsin native and Nationals ace Jordan Zimmermann takes on reliever-turned-starter, Wade LeBlanc.

Topics: Gio Gonzalez, Marlins, Miami Marlins, Nationals, Washington Nationals

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