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Gio has rough return to Oakland in finale loss

Former A's hurler allows seven runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings

OAKLAND -- Gio Gonzalez's happy homecoming to Coliseum came to an abrupt end on Sunday afternoon against the A's.

The Nationals' lefty spent the first part of the weekend shaking hands and catching up with old friends as he returned to his former home ballpark for the first time since being traded in December 2011. But once he took the mound for the series finale, Gonzalez endured his roughest start of the season in a 9-1 loss, as the Nationals were swept out of Oakland.

"It's always nice to come back to Oakland and see some familiar faces and enjoy it," Gonzalez said, "But I've still got a job to do to go out there and pitch. Obviously, it was a different story today."

In a twist of baseball poetry, A's catcher Derek Norris, who was shipped to Oakland as part of the Gonzalez deal, was the southpaw's biggest nemesis on Sunday.

Norris started off the scoring by belting a three-run homer on a 3-0 count with two outs in the first inning. Then he did the same exact thing in the second frame, bringing the score to 7-0 in a hurry.

It's been nearly two-and-a-half years since Norris and Gonzalez changed organizations, but the catcher said he took some extra satisfaction in helping take down his old club and the player he was traded for.

"It's not that they didn't want you," Norris said, "but it's always nice to stick it to them."

The third time Norris came up to the plate against Gonzalez, the count went to 3-0 again, but Norris just drew a walk. Gonzalez admitted that he made mistakes with Norris while falling behind, a common theme that plagued him throughout the afternoon.

"3-0 fastball down the middle," Gonzalez said, "would you wait for that pitch? Especially with two men on base? I would have done the same thing."

Considering A's lefty Tommy Milone -- who was also part of that Gonzalez deal -- pitched eight shutout innings on Friday, Oakland's trade acquisitions did quite well for themselves this series.

While Norris might have been Oakland's hero on Sunday, he didn't do it alone. Six straight A's reached base after Gonzalez retired the first two batters he faced to start the game. Nick Punto also delivered an RBI single in the first inning, so it's no wonder why TV cameras caught a frustrated Gonzalez arguing with teammates in the dugout after the A's took an early seven-run lead.

Even though Gonzalez tersely told reporters "nothing happened," and shortstop Ian Desmond said "I think I missed" the little tiff, manager Matt Williams acknowledged that it was just a heat-of-the-moment type of deal.

"Sometimes within the confines of a team, they're all competing out there," Williams said. "It's just competition. We're not going to go any further than that. That's the team's business and for nobody else."

Gonzalez (3-3) saw his ERA jump from 2.91 to 3.97 after he gave up a season-high seven runs across a season-low 4 1/3 innings, allowing nine hits and three walks while striking out four. The lefty said he felt like he was "starting to get in a groove" the final couple of frames and lobbied to stay on the mound after giving up two singles in the fifth.

But Williams had seen enough.

"That happens," Williams said. "He fell behind a lot today and had to throw the ball over the plate."

Gonzalez's counterpart, A's lefty Scott Kazmir, had no such issues.

Kazmir gave up four singles but was otherwise untouchable, retiring 15 straight at one point and recording 1-2-3 frames in five out of the first six innings. The veteran struck out four while walking none, and is now 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA in eight starts with Oakland.

Jayson Werth (2-for-3) was the only Nationals player to record a multi-hit day. Washington didn't get on the board until Zach Walters hit an RBI single with two outs in the ninth.

For the series, the Nationals committed more errors (five) than they scored runs (four). They registered just 15 hits, while three of their four runs came in one rally against Sonny Gray on Saturday. In all, they were outscored 21-4.

"It's not even mid-May yet, so I don't think worrying is going to do us any good," veteran Scott Hairston said after going 1-for-4. "I don't think that's the right word. If it was September and we were still making these errors, and we're not making plays, yeah, I might be a little worried. But it's still early in the season."

Likewise, Williams said he's not making too much of his team's recent struggles, even as Adam LaRoche (strained right quad) joined Bryce Harper (left thumb) and Ryan Zimmerman (right thumb) on the 15-day disabled list Sunday.

"I'm not concerned with anything at this point," Williams said. "This was a tough series against a very good team. A couple of early deficits and a ballgame [Saturday] night that we could have won against arguably their best guy. So, am I concerned? No. We need to do a better job all around."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to
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