When turning points of a game happen with mammoth home runs, like the one Wilson Ramos hit on Thursday afternoon, they are easy to spot. But sometimes there’s more subtlety to such events, especially when they take place on the other side of the ball. The Nationals used just such a moment Friday night, as Gio Gonzalez pulled a Houdini act to swing momentum for his team on their way to an 8-5, series-opening victory over the San Diego Padres.
Before we get to the moment itself, let’s take a step back to Gonzalez’s last start on Sunday against the Mets. Lost in the melee of the 13-2 Washington onslaught was the fact that Gonzalez was in trouble in the first inning, with two runners on and just one out. But the lefty buckled down to get out of the frame unscathed, and the offense responded with four runs in the next half inning to take a lead the Nationals would never relinquish.
On Friday night, the Padres had already plated a first-inning score when Logan Forsythe and Jesus Guzman opened the second with a single and a double to put runners at second and third with nobody out. But again Gonzalez stepped up his game, striking out the next three batters to get his team back in the dugout still down just a run. This time the bats responded with five runs and never looked back, scoring eight runs for the fourth time in six games.
While that still hasn’t happened every game in the last half-dozen, four out of six is pretty solid. If the Nationals went on to win four-of-six each time over their remaining 76 games, they would finish with 95 wins. While it’s easy to look for a prolonged winning streak to prove a team turnaround – and the Nationals would certainly gladly take one of those – sometimes it is the smaller shifts, the ones that often go unseen, that can have the most profound impact.