WASHINGTON -- In a game counterpart Robbie Ray departed early with an injury, Giovany Gonzalez offered his best performance of the season. The Nationals starter also showed his new manager an ability to work out of trouble.Gonzalez (3-2) struck out a season-high eight over seven innings and escaped a jam
WASHINGTON -- In a game counterpart Robbie Ray departed early with an injury, Giovany Gonzalez offered his best performance of the season. The Nationals starter also showed his new manager an ability to work out of trouble.
Gonzalez (3-2) struck out a season-high eight over seven innings and escaped a jam in his final frame as the Nationals held on for a much-needed 3-1 victory over the D-backs on Sunday afternoon.
"I got into a situation that I wanted to know how it felt like to get out of," said Gonzalez, who allowed six hits and walked two. "That was huge."
Matt Wieters and Michael A. Taylor homered off long reliever T.J. McFarland (1-1). The Nationals also scored a run off McFarland's fielding error in the second inning on their way to their second win in eight games.
In Gonzalez's previous start, first-year skipper Dave Martinez removed the lefty after 94 pitches when he walked the leadoff man in the sixth. The next batter, Mac Williamson, hit a decisive two-run homer off reliever Shawn Kelley in the Giants' 4-2 win.
This time, the combination of an extra day of rest and a depleted bullpen convinced Martinez to stick with Gonzalez in the seventh when he allowed the first two aboard.
"He was getting ground balls, his fastball looked live, his breaking ball was good," Martinez said. "I said, 'Hey, I think he's really good for 115 pitches today. So we'll try to get him through [David] Peralta,' and it was perfect."
Gonzalez induced a grounder from John Ryan Murphy that put runners on the corners, conceded Daniel Descalso's sacrifice fly, and then fanned leadoff man Peralta for a fourth time on a diving 1-2 curveball. The off-speed offering was Gonzalez's 114th pitch, the most he has thrown since September.
"His breaking ball was still sharp, so I knew it was a pitch we would be able to use in that inning," said Wieters, the Nationals' catcher. "I kind of just kept telling him, 'One more.'"
Brandon Kintzler pitched a scoreless eighth for the Nationals, and Sean Doolittle worked the ninth for his fifth save. Doolittle was working a third straight day and Kintzler a second.
"I talked to Kintzler and Doolittle before the game and I told them, 'Hey, if we're ahead, are you guys available?'" Martinez said. "They said absolutely."
Ray looked every bit Gonzalez's equal early, fanning out his first two batters and retiring four of the first five. But on the sixth, he pulled up with an injured right oblique muscle after delivering one pitch -- a ball -- to Wieters.
With one out and the bases empty, McFarland (1-1) came on and worked the count full. Then Wieters, who caught McFarland when the pair played together in Baltimore, drove a 3-2 fastball into the visitors' bullpen for his third homer of the season.
Washington made it 2-0 later in the second when McFarland erred fielding Ryan Zimmerman's bases-loaded chopper. Taylor added his solo shot in the third.
In the seventh inning, Trea Turner stole his 12th base without being caught this season. That's tied for the most consecutive successful steal attempts to start a season since the franchise moved to Washington. Adam Kennedy swiped 12 straight bags to open the 2010 campaign but didn't complete the feat until July 30.
HE SAID IT
"He crushed that ball. I mean, that ball was coming backwards when the guy caught it," -- Wieters, who said if not for cool weather and a brisk wind, the Nationals might've had one or two home runs -- in particular Moises Sierra, who hit a deep fly ball to center in the third
After losing three straight series, the Nationals begin a four-game home set with NL Central-leading Pittsburgh. Recent history suggests a series win won't come easy; the Pirates were one of only two NL teams with a winning record against Washington in 2017. Tanner Roark (1-2, 3.77 ERA) starts on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET opposite Pirates righty Jameson Taillon (2-2, 4.91).
Ian Quillen is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington.