WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and Angels entered Tuesday night as two of the hottest teams in baseball, with a combined 13 wins over 16 games between the clubs. But Washington snapped the Halos' six-game win streak with a 3-1 victory at Nationals Park, using two home runs from Howie Kendrick, who spent his first nine seasons with the Angels.
Kendrick, who hit .292 in Los Angeles, is batting .386 (17-for-44) with four homers and 11 RBIs since being traded to the Nationals on July 28. The Angels couldn't counter his burst due to another brilliant performance from Giovany Gonzalez, who threw six scoreless innings and didn't surrender a hit until the sixth.
• Another near no-no part of Gio's renaissance
"I'm over that already," Gonzalez said of no-hit bids, shaking his head with a laugh. "No more of that. If I can just manage to keep going into the fifth, sixth, seventh inning, I'm just happy to see that."
Despite the loss, the Angels remained a half-game up for the second American League Wild Card spot, as the Royals and Twins both lost Tuesday night.
"Tomorrow we've got to pick it up and start momentum early and hopefully keep it going," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You need to get to the next game. Tonight we didn't swing the bats. Those guys did a good job. Hopefully tomorrow we'll start pressuring them on the offensive side."
Kendrick's solo shots came in the third and the fifth off Tyler Skaggs, who was making his third start since missing more than three months with an oblique strain and grew closer with Kendrick in May while the pair rehabbed in Arizona. Those were the lefty's lone miscues, but Gonzalez shut down the Angels, allowing just two hits while lowering his MLB-best home ERA to 1.79.
"It's been fun," Kendrick said of watching Gonzalez. "Seeing him go out, I think it's two times since I've been here, no-hitters going into the seventh inning. He's been doing his thing all year, and I am happy for him and hopefully he continues to throw well."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Murphy's leap: After Cameron Maybin broke up Gonzalez's no-hitter in the sixth inning with a single up the middle, the lefty ran into trouble. Michael Trout singled before Gonzalez intentionally walked Jose Pujols. With the bases loaded and two outs, Jefry Marte lined a changeup up the middle with an exit velocity of 100 mph, per Statcast™. But Daniel Murphy leaped to make the grab, ending the inning and maintaining the Nationals' 2-0 lead.
"I thought it was definitely a single," Scioscia said. "It was hit hard. It was going to roll for a while. I don't know if he would've split the whole gap, but there's no doubt it ties the game at that point."
"If it wasn't for his play, it's a different ballgame," Gonzalez said. "We wouldn't be talking with so much smiling. We'd be talking with more, 'Gotta make a better pitch.'"
Finishing the job: The Angels got on the board in the eighth inning when Cliff Pennington took Brandon Kintzler deep for the first run the reliever has given up since being traded to the Nationals on July 31. But the blemish didn't faze the right-hander, as he struck out Maybin and Trout to end the frame.
"He plays hard, he plays the game right and it shows every time he goes up to bat. He's just a guy that you want to stop and see what he's going to do, because he's going to do something remarkable." -- Gonzalez, on Kendrick
"Gio, I don't want him starting to look ahead too much, but you need a left-hander to combat some of the powerful left-handed lineups that we might be facing." -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker, on Gonzalez's importance for the postseason
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Kendrick's homers were the 100th and 101st of his career. It was also Kendrick's first multi-homer game of the year, and first since April 18, 2014, when he was with the Angels.
"For me it's just something you can say you did," he said. "At the same time, I've never really been a home run guy, more of just a hitter, but I'll take it as it comes, but it was fun."
Angels:Ricky Nolasco will take the mound when the Angels and Nationals finish their two-game set at Nationals Park on Wednesday at 10:05 a.m. PT. The right-hander allowed five runs over five innings vs. the Mariners in his last start. The 34-year-old is 11-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 23 career appearances against Washington.
Nationals:Tanner Roark makes the start for the Nationals as they wrap up a two-game series with the Angels on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET. He has been much improved in the second half of the season with a 2.97 ERA after posting a 5.27 ERA in the first half. This will be his first start against the Angels since April 2014.
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