Flying solo: Nats' home runs back stellar Gio
Duo of back-to-back dingers helps left-hander best Phillies' Lee
PHILADELPHIA -- Before Wednesday's game against the Phillies, Nationals manager Davey Johnson saw his team take batting practice, and he liked what he saw. He noticed the team was aggressive and pulling the ball out of the park. He is a not a fan of taking the ball to right field all the time.
After a two-day absence, the Nationals took their aggressiveness into the game and defeated the Phillies, 5-1, at Citizens Bank Park.
The game started out as a pitchers' duel. Washington's Gio Gonzalez and Philadelphia's Cliff Lee each pitched four scoreless innings before the Nationals took the lead in the top of the fifth. Anthony Rendon swung at an 0-2 pitch and hit the ball over the left-field wall for his fourth home run of the season.
Wilson Ramos immediately followed on a 1-0 pitch for his fourth home run of the season, this ball going over the right-field wall to give Washington a 2-0 lead.
In the next frame, Washington used the long ball again. Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth hit back-to-back home runs to make it a 4-0 game. It marked the sixth time the Nationals hit back-to-back home runs this year.
Werth has been consistent since coming off the disabled list on June 4, hitting .322 with two home runs and five RBIs.
"He's been great. He's been outstanding," Johnson said. "He is 100 percent in as he usually is. But I mean he is really focused. … [Citizens Bank Park] gears him up. I never saw him run so fast. After he took care of [Denard] Span [who suffered a leg cramp in the ninth inning], Werth was sprinting back to right field."
Lee ended up with his third loss. He threw just 76 pitches over seven innings and allowed the four runs on nine hits.
"They hit four solo home runs, and I felt like I was throwing strikes and working ahead in the count and locating," Lee said. "Actually, all four of the home runs were decent pitches. It was just one of those deals that when it's hot, the ball carries, and you have to do a better job of educing ground balls. But they put some good swings on decent pitches and got them out of here."
Johnson liked the way his hitters approached Lee.
"He throws that cutter in on them. They got the bat head out on it," Johnson said. "That's what you have to do with him. He pitches a lot inside. He uses his fastball. He goes right after you. I was really pleased with the way they approached him."
Ramos said it helped that the Nationals were watching Lee on video before the game and observed what he likes to throw during certain counts.
"For me, he threw me a couple of fastballs in during the first at-bat," Ramos said. "The second at-bat, he threw a fastball in and he went away, too. I was looking for a fastball. My teammates were looking for a fastball, too, and they hit a home run."
Gonzalez was outstanding, also pitching seven innings. He gave up a run on six hits and fanned five batters. His only blemish was a solo home run to Darin Ruf in the seventh inning.
Gonzalez has pitched effectively for more than two months and looks like the pitcher that won 20 games for Washington last year. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 11 of his last 13 starts. He has a 2.18 ERA since May 1.
"He was getting a lot of movement on his fastball, throwing his changeup well," Ruf said. "Early in the game, I think he couldn't find his curveball, but later on he was throwing that very effectively, putting it wherever he wanted. That's what a good pitcher does. He has faith in his pitches, relies on them and keeps throwing it until he does find it and he finally did."
The Nationals scored their final run in the top of the ninth. With runners on first and third, one out and left-hander Jake Diekman on the mound, Span hit a slow roller to Diekman, who fielded the ball and threw the ball over Ruf's head, scoring Rendon. Span was credited with an RBI on the play.
With the win, the Nationals improved their record to 47-44.