TORONTO -- Even after Giovany Gonzalez battled through six innings Friday at Rogers Centre, the Nationals tried to push the left-hander into the seventh inning at 94 pitches with the score tied. Manager Dave Martinez liked the matchup and thought he could get him through one more inning, but the
TORONTO -- Even after Giovany Gonzalez battled through six innings Friday at Rogers Centre, the Nationals tried to push the left-hander into the seventh inning at 94 pitches with the score tied. Manager Dave Martinez liked the matchup and thought he could get him through one more inning, but the inning unraveled quickly, as the Blue Jays put together a three-run frame that proved to be decisive in Washington's 6-5 loss.
After Gonzalez gave up a leadoff single to start the seventh, Adam Eaton lost a fly ball in the sky in right field off the bat of Teoscar Hernandez that bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. Martinez called upon right-hander Justin Miller to try and get the Nats out of the jam, but he gave up a sacrifice fly to Justin Smoak, followed by a two-run homer to Yangervis Solarte, his second of the game.
Eaton never saw the fly ball from Hernandez once it went into the sky, where the sun was going down and dusk descending in Toronto. He tried to deke the runners and find the ball as best he could, but the ball landed behind him and bounced over the wall for a double. Eaton went up to Gonzalez after the inning to apologize, but Gonzalez said he never saw the ball either.
"It's a helpless feeling when the ball goes up and you don't see it," Eaton said. "You won't see it 'til it's on its way down when it hits the lights. It is what it is. It's just a tough situation."
"I was with Adam on that one," Gonzalez said. "I didn't see it at all. As soon as he hit it, it completely disappeared. I didn't see it at all, and I sympathize with him."
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The Nationals are likely going to have to sacrifice some defense in the outfield at times when Bryce Harper starts in center field, opting for their best hitting lineup and leaving their best defensive outfielder, Michael A. Taylor, on the bench. But Eaton is a more natural corner outfielder anyway, and mistakes such as Friday's should be few and far between.
"It's hard here. I played right field here," Martinez said. "As soon as the ball is hit, you have to keep your eye on it. You can't take your eye off for a second. You'll lose it."
Miller had not surrendered a run all season for Washington or at Triple-A Syracuse in a combined 24 1/3 innings, but he was tasked with getting the Nats out of a tough jam. Perhaps things could have ended differently had he started the inning clean, but Martinez instead chose to push Gonzalez, who was charged with five runs on nine hits in six-plus innings, deeper into the game.
"I thought he could get through that inning," Martinez said. "Then tie game, we'd be in good shape. I think he pitched really well. We got one fly ball we didn't see."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Nationals battled back with a pair of runs in the eighth inning, including a run-scoring single from Daniel Murphy for his first hit of the season, which put them in position for a ninth-inning rally.
Wilmer Difo started the inning with a leadoff single, promptly stole second base and advanced to third a sacrifice fly. With the tying run at third base and one out, Eaton grounded out to second base on the first pitch with the infield in and Trea Turner struck out to end the game against Dennis Tepera.
"You take a risk when you've never seen a guy and try to ambush right there," Eaton said. "I took a risk and it didn't work out."
HE SAID IT
"It's gonna sting, but it's fine. It's baseball. I'm not going to go out there and not give up a run for an entire season. There's a reason there's ERA up there. There's a hit category, there's a run category, there's all that stuff. It was bound to happen one of those times." -- Miller, on giving up his first run of the season
Max Scherzer will take the mound for the Nationals on Saturday afternoon riding a streak of at least seven innings and nine strikeouts in three consecutive starts. Scherzer has posted a 2.15 ERA in eight career starts against Toronto. Marco Estrada will be the opposing pitcher for the Blue Jays, with first pitch set for 4:07 p.m. ET.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.