Gio again does it all in season debut as Nats top Mets
Like in 2013, lefty goes six strong, hits solo homer in first start of year
NEW YORK -- It's safe to say that left-hander Gio Gonzalez had a good night on the mound and at the plate, as he helped the Nationals defeat the Mets, 5-1, at Citi Field on Wednesday night.
Gonzalez pitched six innings, allowed one run on three hits and struck out six batters, but he got off to a slow start in the bottom first inning.
Juan Lagares led off with a triple and later scored on a sacrifice fly by David Wright to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. It was smooth sailing for Gonzalez after that. He left the game after throwing 91 pitches.
"It's starts with his fastball," Nationals manager Matt Williams said about Gonzalez. "So once he establishes his fastball command, everything else works off that. He did that tonight. He was able to find his command and use his other stuff, too."
In the fourth inning, facing Mets starter Bartolo Colon, Jayson Werth doubled with one out. Adam LaRoche followed and doubled down the left-field line, scoring Werth.
An inning later, the Nationals used the long ball. On the first pitch, Ian Desmond hit his first home run of the season to give Washington a 2-1 lead. Two batters later, Gonzalez hit a long drive to left-center field.
It looked like the ball hit the left-center-field wall, but second-base umpire Todd Tichenor correctly ruled it a home run. In the meantime, Gonzalez had no idea that he had hit a home run. He rounded the bases as if he was going for an inside-the-park homer.
"That was epic," Desmond joked about Gonzalez's effort. "That will be in the memory bank for a long time."
Here's Gonzalez's take on his home run:
"I was trying to get a double out of it. I saw the ball rolling. I saw the left fielder slowing down. I said, 'What is going on here?' And [third-base coach] Bobby [Henley] said, 'Keep going.' It was nice to have the catcher [Travis d'Arnaud] say, 'Hey, hey, slow down.'"
Gonzalez was tuckered out by the time he reached the dugout. As the players were high-fiving him, Gonzalez jokingly said, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe."
"Having some fun with the guys was pretty cool, but I was trying to find the oxygen tank and breathe out there after that," Gonzalez said.
The Mets did not challenge the call and Gonzalez had his third career home run. It was a deja vu, of sorts, as Gonzalez also hit a one-out solo homer to left field in the fifth inning in his 2013 season debut.
Gonzalez is not the only one doing the job for the Nationals. In fact, in the two games against the Mets, Nationals pitchers have 31 strikeouts.
"Certainly we've got to do a better job of putting the ball in play with two strikes. There's no doubt about that," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
The Nationals always stress pitching to contact in order to have lower pitch counts and quick innings. But Williams doesn't mind his pitchers compiling strikeouts.
"They do get a lot of foul balls. They do get a lot of strikeouts, which takes the pitch count up a little bit," Williams said. "But that doesn't mean we don't preach pitching to contact, because we want quick innings for those guys."
It looked like the Mets were going to make it a one-run game in the fifth inning. Ruben Tejada tried to score all the way from first base on a double by Lagares, but left fielder Bryce Harper threw Tejada out at the plate.
"I kept yelling, keep it down, keep it down, in hoping that [the throw] didn't sail and the runner didn't come around," Desmond said. "The things [Harper] can do with that arm is pretty special."
Colon exited the game after six innings, while the Nationals added another run against right-hander Gonzalez Germen in the top of the seventh inning. With runners on second and third with no outs, Germen threw a wild pitch that allowed Denard Span to score.
Span scored his second run in the ninth, on a groundout to short by Anthony Rendon.
Relievers Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen followed Gonzalez and blanked the Mets the rest of the way as the Nationals improved to 2-0.
"I like more about the chemistry in the dugout," Desmond said. "It seems a lot of players are focused. I'm more encouraged by what I see in the dugout than what I see on the field. And what is on the field is really good. It's a good sign."