What to Watch for: 9.10.13
Washington Nationals (74-69) vs. New York Mets (64-78)
RHP Jordan Zimmermann (16-8, 3.30) vs. RHP Dillon Gee (11-9, 3.53)
On any other night, a shutout backed by five home runs in a 9-0 whitewashing of an opponent would be cause for celebration in any clubhouse. But on Monday night in Flushing, Gio Gonzalez was left wondering what might have been, if only for a couple of measly inches.
After walking Daniel Murphy, the second batter of the game, Gonzalez settled into a groove against the Mets, going on to set down the next 17 men he faced. Meanwhile, the offense continued to pile up runs behind him, as five different Washington hitters went deep, just one home run shy of the club record. By the time he took the mound after the seventh-inning stretch at Citi Field, Gonzalez had a nine-run advantage and just nine outs left to record the first no-hitter in Nationals history.
The Mets had double-switched Murphy – arguably their best hitter, and certainly the one who had done the most damage to the Nationals, batting at a .385 clip (25-for-65) with seven extra-base hits against Washington – out of the game. That left it to pinch-hitter Zach Lutz, who entered the game with all of 11 Major League plate appearances this year and 22 in his career.
Lutz slapped at a first-pitch fastball and hit a soft liner to the right side, just over the first base bag. Adam LaRoche went into an all-out dive, but came up just short of snagging the ball on the fly. As it escaped his grasp, it bounced on the chalk line, then skipped up the right field line, dashing Gonzalez’s hopes for history. The southpaw hardly let it affect the rest of his performance, though, walking just one more batter en route to his second career shutout and the low-hit game of his professional career.
“It’s fun to be a part of something like that,” said Ryan Zimmerman, who homered in the first inning for his fourth roundtripper in the last three games. “It makes you want to make a play. Everyone wants to be a part of history.”
As for Gonzalez, what was his first thought when he saw Lutz’s liner escape LaRoche’s reach?
“Foul,” he joked, but later took the greater context in perspective. “It’s a bittersweet moment. You’re happy you got the win. The team did great, everybody looked alive today. It’s just a sad moment when you lose a no-hitter down the line.”
1. Denard Span CF
2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
3. Jayson Werth RF
4. Ian Desmond SS
5. Adam LaRoche 1B
6. Wilson Ramos C
7. Tyler Moore LF
8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B
9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP
THE KING OF QUEENS
Gio Gonzalez allowed just one hit and two walks while striking out eight in his first shutout of the season and second of his career. Gonzalez joins Ramon Ortiz, Jason Bergmann, and Scott Olsen as the fourth pitcher in Nationals history (‘05-present) to take a no-hitter into the seventh inning. The shutout was the 10th by a Nationals pitcher since 2005 and just the second one-hit shutout in Nationals history, along with Jordan Zimmermann’s gem over the Reds on April 26 this season.
BIG (FLY) 5
The Nationals tied a 2013 single-game high by clubbing five home runs, including back-to-back shots by Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman to lead off the game. The Washington club record for one game is six, last matched in back-to-back contests September 4-5, 2012 vs. the Cubs.
Denard Span has hit safely in a career-high 20 straight games at a .410 (34-for-83) clip with five walks, three doubles, two triples, two homers, 14 runs scored and seven RBI. Span’s surge has raised his batting average from .258 to .282, just one point off his career average. Span’s 20-game streak is the longest active streak and tied for the third-longest streak overall in Major League Baseball this season (Cuddyer – 27, Ortiz – 27, Freese – 20).