Nats erupt at Citi Field to back stellar Gio
Four homers, plus six-run eighth, seal series win against Mets
NEW YORK -- The Nationals reached the halfway point of the season on Sunday and they hope what happened to them on this day can carry over into the second half. Washington scored early and often against rookie Zack Wheeler and pounded the Mets, 13-2, at Citi Field.
Left-hander Gio Gonzalez pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out seven. Gonzalez ran into trouble in the first and seventh innings, but escaped unscathed. In the first, after Daniel Murphy singled and David Wright reached base on a walk, catcher Kurt Suzuki went to the mound to lecture Gonzalez. Suzuki looked animated after he reached the mound.
"I just made sure today I really stayed on him, because I want him to do well," Suzuki said.
Gonzalez wasn't offended that Suzuki was yelling at him. He's used to it by now. After all, they have played together since 2008, when they were with the Athletics.
"When I lost focus ... he put me right back where I needed to be," Gonzalez said. "It's like a big brother talking to a young brother. 'Hey, let's pound the strike zone. Let's figure out what we have going. Focus and hit my glove. I'm going to call ... some pitches and I want you the execute the pitches.'"
And Gonzalez was able to get out of the jam after the walk to Wright. Marlon Byrd struck out and Josh Satin flied out to Jayson Werth in right field.
In the seventh, New York had runners first and second with no outs, but John Buck flied out to Denard Span in center field, Juan Lagares popped up to shortstop Ian Desmond and Omar Quintanilla grounded out to end the inning.
The Nationals are known to struggle offensively this year, but they were able to make it a relatively easy outing for Gonzalez as early as the second inning by scoring four runs off Wheeler in the frame. Adam LaRoche led off, swung at the first pitch to hit a mammoth home run off the facing of the upper deck in right field.
Two batters later, Desmond doubled to right-center field, scoring Werth. Desmond later scored on single by Suzuki to give Washington a 3-0 lead. Suzuki scored all the way from first on a double by Denard Span.
An inning later, Werth gave Washington a five-run lead with his eighth home run of the season, a solo shot that went over the left-center-field wall.
"They know how to read over there, too. They've read all the clips that this guy [Wheeler] is going to come bearing down on them with a plus fastball," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "So they're keyed up. They know how to cheat a little bit, get the bat a little bit out front. So when it was not the 98, the 97 that we've seen, they got the barrel to it. Certainly, we've got to bear with it and tell him to get ready for your next start."
The Nationals batted around and added six more runs in the eighth inning off Brandon Lyon. Roger Bernadina had an RBI double, while Suzuki hit a two-run home run. Three batters later, Anthony Rendon doubled over the head of Eric Young Jr. in left field, scoring two more runs. Rendon scored the 11th run of the game on a single by Ryan Zimmerman.
It marked only the second time this season the Nationals scored at least 10 runs in a game.
"It was nice to see the bats come alive -- it makes the trip home a lot shorter," manager Davey Johnson said.
The Nationals then added two more runs off backup catcher Anthony Recker -- pitching to take some pressure off the Mets' bullpen -- in the ninth inning, when Desmond hit a two-run homer, his 15th of the season. For the month of June, Desmond drove in 28 runs, a record by a Nationals player since the team moved to D.C. in 2005. Desmond didn't even know he set the RBI record until a reporter told him after the game. The win seemed more important to Desmond, however.
"I'm glad we won. It was good to get the series, and we beat a good pitcher today," Desmond said. "We have been making strides in the right direction. It's just another one."
The Nationals improved their record to 41-40 and remain 6 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East. The Nationals return home to play a combined seven games against the Brewers and Padres beginning Monday, which will also bring the return of outfielder Bryce Harper, who is expected to come off the disabled list and hit third in the lineup for Washington.
"It's good to get Harper back. He is going to be aggressive, and we just need to keep that momentum going," Johnson said. "He carried us for a couple of months. [The pitchers] had to pitch him tough. ... It's going to be good to get him back. I have to figure how to put him back in. I'm leaning toward the original way I had [the lineup]."