MIAMI -- Earlier in the day, Nationals left-hander Giovany Gonzalez visited the infant daughter of the late Jose Fernandez. Gonzalez grew up in nearby Hialeah, Fla., and he and his brother became close with Miami's former ace. They attended Fernandez's funeral last September.
On Monday night, on Fernandez's 25th birthday, Gonzalez flirted with history to deliver a tribute to his friend on the mound at Marlins Park.
Gonzalez carried a no-hitter into the ninth before Dee Gordon started the inning with a single that knocked him out of the game. Left-hander Sean Doolittle secured the final three outs for the Nationals' 1-0 victory and the performance of a lifetime for Gonzalez. He was also pitching with his wife set to go into labor any day now, which was also weighing on his mind in what was an emotional start.
• Emotional day nearly ends in no-no for Gio
"I tried to tone it down," Gonzalez said. "Don't let this be too much overpowering the game and what you're doing. I can understand, too, from their side. Today was a very emotional day. They know what's going on. I'm sure for all of us it was one of those games you just want to -- if we can all sit down and just kind of like chit chat about the good times with Jose more than going up against each other and trying to play baseball. I think it's a different story when you have to put that kind of in perspective and play the game."
The only no-hitter in the Majors this year came at Marlins Park. Miami's Edinson Volquez no-hit the D-backs on June 3. After Gordon's single, Nationals manager Dusty Baker lifted the lefty, who received a nice ovation. Marlins players tipped their caps to Gonzalez as he headed to the visiting dugout. He threw eight scoreless innings with five strikeouts and three walks.
"I was trying to get on," said Gordon, who lined a 1-1 curveball into center. "Got a good pitch to hit. Took a good swing at it. I'm just happy he didn't no-hit us."
Gonzalez received a big defensive boost in the second inning when center fielder Brian Goodwin made a sliding catch on Mike Aviles' fly ball. Shortstop Wilmer Difo took away another near hit from Miami by leaving his feet to make a backhanded grab on Miguel Rojas' line drive, tracked at 97.5 mph. But other than that, Gonzalez cruised through the Marlins' lineup for most of the game.
"He was really focused and very calm," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "The best I've seen him, and the longest I've seen him. We were all hoping for it. Nobody was saying anything, but he knew it, the fans knew it, everybody knew it."
Marlins manager Don Mattingly, while praising Gonzalez's outing, wasn't pleased with the hurried approach of his batters.
"Quite honestly, I thought we did an awful job with him as far as making him pitch," Mattingly said. "Now, I'm not taking anything away from him, but we did a really bad job of making him throw enough strikes and do enough to us to force us into counts, fight him off. Just too many easy outs."
Miami right-hander Jose Urena exchanged zeros with Gonzalez until the sixth. Goodwin hit a leadoff double, and after being bunted over to third, scored on Bryce Harper's RBI single to left.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Doolittle gets the double play: After Gordon singled in the ninth inning, Gonzalez's night was done after an emotional and taxing 106 pitches.
"I'll be honest with you: It was just like, 'All right, that's it. I'm exhausted. Let's go. Go get the man, close this game out and let's go,'" Gonzalez said.
Baker called upon Doolittle to face the heart of the Marlins' lineup. Doolittle forced Giancarlo Stanton to bounce into a double play to quickly stop the rally.
Harper's timely knock: Gonzalez's outing overshadowed a stellar performance by Urena for Miami. In eight innings, the right-hander allowed one run on three hits. Harper delivered the only run Gonzalez would need. With Goodwin on third and one out in the sixth inning, Harper lined an RBI single to left.
With first base open, Mattingly opted to pitch to Harper.
"It's early enough where I know I have to score to win," Mattingly said. "And that lineup over there, it's obviously dangerous. But to get to [Ryan] Zimmerman and then to [Daniel] Murphy, I have a chance to let that game get open. And really, right there, I felt like, if they get one, they get one. Still sitting there with four innings to score, I feel like we'll score in there. And if we can't score, we can't win anyway."
"Absolutely. Put that ball there. I would love to see my -- boy or girl, we don't know right now -- I will always, I don't care what situation I'm in, I will always be there to see my kids." -- Gonzalez, on whether he would have left the no-hitter if his wife went into labor
"At the point you step in the box, you always think you're going to be the guy that breaks it. It's the natural mentality that you have to have. As a baseball player, you never want to get a no-hitter against you. I feel like you always have faith in your teammates." -- Rojas
DEFENSE TRIES TO PRESERVE NO-NO
Goodwin showed his range, and the Nationals' center fielder needed every last bit of effort to run down Aviles' lazy fly ball to end the second inning. Because of how much ground he had to cover, Goodwin was fairly deep, but he was able to make a sliding grab. Along with being the third out, it also took away one of the few chances Miami had for a hit before Gordon's single in the ninth.
In the sixth, defensive positioning worked in Gonzalez's favor. Leading off the inning, Difo made a backhanded catch to take away a hit from Rojas. The hit probability was 76 percent.
Did Rojas think his liner would be Miami's first hit?
"Absolutely. I hit the ball well," Rojas said. "He was using his curveball more than before. His fastball wasn't the same velocity as earlier in the year. I remember, I faced him in the second game we played over there in Washington. He had a little more behind his fastball today. He was using more of the off [speed] pitches and breaking balls. He was commanding everything down in the zone. He found a way to get us off-balance. We have to make better approaches at the plate when we're facing guys like that." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Nationals nearly no-hit the Marlins on June 21 at Marlins Park. Max Scherzer threw 7 1/3 no-hit innings before A.J. Ellis' infield single broke up his attempt at a third career no-hitter. Miami rallied to win, 2-1.
Nationals: Scherzer will take the ball again on Tuesday for the second game of this three-game set at 7:10 p.m. ET. Right-hander Brandon Kintzler should also join the team after being acquired from the Twins before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Marlins:Chris O'Grady is 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA in four starts, and he has 21 strikeouts in 22 innings. The lefty gets the nod on Tuesday at Marlins Park.
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