Results tagged ‘ Gio Gonzalez ’

Spring Training Preview, Part III: Starting Pitchers

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by Kyle Mann

Coming off a Major League Baseball-best 3.03 starters ERA, the Washington Nationals added 2013 American League Cy Young Award Winner Max Scherzer to a starting staff that is now projected to feature five members with Top-10 Cy Young Award finishes since 2012.

We’ve already previewed the Nationals starting catchers and relievers; now let’s dig into what could be a historically good starting staff.

*Note, 2014 totals reflect only Major League stats.

MAX SCHERZER

2014 Season Totals: 18-5, 3.15 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 10.29 K/9, 2.57 BB/9, 5.6 fWAR in 220.1 IP
2015 Steamer Projection: 14-8, 2.91 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 10.46 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, 3.9 fWAR in 192.0 IP

Even in a rotation full of aces, Scherzer stands out due to his impressive resume that includes the 2013 American League Cy Young Award and a fifth-place Cy Young finish in 2014. Scherzer, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-hander, also has two straight All-Star appearances, earning the starting nod in 2013 and winning the game out of the bullpen last season.

Now back in the National League, where he started his career as a first round pick of then-Diamondbacks Vice President of Scouting Operations (and current Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM) Mike Rizzo, Scherzer is poised to continue his success in 2015 and beyond. Scherzer, baseball’s active leader (and fourth all-time) in strikeouts per nine innings pitched, also led the AL in wins each of the last two seasons (tied in 2014) and was a top three finisher in in strikeouts each of the past three years.

the Washington Nationals Nationals play the San Francisco Giants in the 2nd playoff gameJORDAN ZIMMERMANN

2014 Season Totals: 14-5, 2.66 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 8.20 K/9, 1.31 BB/9, 5.2 fWAR in 199.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 13-9, 3.39 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 7.65 K/9, 1.72 BB/9, 2.9 fWAR in 182.0 IP

A model of consistency, Jordan Zimmermann has established himself as one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues the past four seasons. After tying for the NL lead in wins and finishing seventh in the Cy Young Award voting in 2013, Zimmermann followed up his first All-Star season with an even better 2014.

Zimmermann’s no-hitter to end the regular season was certainly the highlight, but Zimmermann was dominant all year. Zimmermann twice won NL Player of the Week honors and allowed the fewest walks per nine innings in the league, en route to a fifth-place finish in NL Cy Young voting. Known for being a bulldog on the mound, Zimmermann finished second in the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio and fourth in WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and finished behind only National League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw in fielding independent pitching (FIP) —a key indicator of future performance.

STEPHEN STRASBURG

2014 Season Totals: 14-11, 3.14 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 10.13 K/9, 1.80 BB/9, 4.3 fWAR in 215.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 13-8, 3.03 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 9.78 K/9, 2.27 BB/9, 3.8 fWAR in 182.0 IP

Since being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of San Diego State University, Stephen Strasburg has established himself as one of the game’s most talented pitchers. Last season, Strasburg led the National League in strikeouts and games started behind a dominating fastball that averaged 94.8 mph and a change-up that averaged 88.2 miles per hour.

Strasburg struck out 10.13 batters per nine innings, good for second in the NL, on his way to a ninth-place finish in the Cy Young Award balloting. Thanks to a reduction in walk rate, Strasburg improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 3.41 in 2013 to 5.63 last season, good for second in the National League.  Strasburg has been the Nationals’ Opening Day starter each of the past three seasons and served as the Game 1 starter in the 2014 playoffs — and at just 26, is still improving — but it remains to be seen where he’ll slot in this rotation at the start of the 2015 campaign.

MLB-Miami Marlins at Washington NationalsDOUG FISTER

2014 Season Totals: 16-6, 2.41 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 5.38 K/9, 1.32 BB/9, 1.3 fWAR in 164.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 12-10, 3.78 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 6.20 K/9, 1.82 BB/9, 2.1 fWAR in 182.0 IP

In his inaugural season in Washington, Doug Fister had the best ERA among all Nationals starters, and his 2.41 ERA was good for fourth best in the National League. Considering he may head into 2015 as a possible fourth starter in the rotation, D.C. has plenty of reasons to be excited about the team’s chances during the 2015 season. With a quick tempo and a four-pitch mix that perplexed hitters all season long, Fister improved his ERA every month of the season on his way to an eighth-place finish in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Finishing behind only teammate Jordan Zimmermann in the NL in walks per nine innings, Fister’s control is the key to his success. After flourishing in his first season in the nation’s capital, Fister is poised for another great season for the Nationals in 2015.

GIO GONZALEZ

2014 Season Totals: 10-10, 3.57 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 9.19 K/9, 3.18 BB/9, 3.1 fWAR in 158.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 11-9, 3.70 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 8.68 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, 2.0 fWAR in 163.0 IP

The lone southpaw in the Nationals’ batch of starters, Gio Gonzalez enters 2015 coming off a strong September where he posted a 2.48 ERA and had 31 strikeouts and only five walks. Overall, his effectiveness in 2014 was masked by an ERA more than a half run higher than his FIP, which could indicate a return to some of the numbers the Hialeah, Fla. native posted during his 21-win 2012 campaign. The two-time All-Star is sixth among active pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings and sixth among active MLB lefties in career ERA, with an uptick in numbers since joining the Nationals three seasons ago. Gonzalez could be in line for a strong 2015, particularly if he continues to develop his change-up, a pitch he threw with more regularity in the second half of the season.

TANNER ROARK

2014 Season Totals: 15-10, 2.85 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 6.25 K/9, 1.77 BB/9, 3.0 fWAR in 198.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 2-2, 4.10 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 6.44 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, 0.3 fWAR in 38.0 IP

Part of the package the Nationals received for Cristian Guzman in a 2010 trade, Tanner Roark finished the 2014 season with 15 wins and a 2.85 ERA, proving his strong rookie season was no fluke. While Roark’s 2015 role isn’t yet clear, he’s shown he can be very successful as a starter, or coming out of the bullpen, including 22.2 innings in 2013 in which he posted a 1.19 ERA. After finishing last season in the Top 10 in the National League in wins, WHIP, walks per inning pitched and pitching WAR, Roark provides great rotation depth for the Nationals and should easily beat his Steamer projections if he gets regular work. As the old saying goes, you can never have too much pitching, and Roark has shown he will provide value no matter how he is used in 2015.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals - Game OneBLAKE TREINEN

2014 Season Totals: 2-3, 2.49 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 5.33 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, 0.6 fWAR in 50.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 2-2, 3.55 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 6.83 K/9, 2.17 BB/9, 0.2 fWAR in 45.0 IP 

A key part of the three-team trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle before the 2013 season — a deal that also netted the Nationals A.J. Cole and Ian Krol (later an integral part of the trade for Doug Fister) — Blake Treinen’s blazing fastball generated a lot of buzz in D.C. during his first taste of the Major Leagues. After posting an outstanding 2.49 ERA in 15 appearances (seven starts) with the Nationals in 2014, Treinen is an option to provide rotation depth, or be utilized out of the Nationals bullpen. A former college walk-on, Treinen threw his hard, sinking fastball nearly 80 percent of the time last season with an average speed of 94.8 miles per hour. Regardless of role, Treinen should be a solid contributor for the Nationals in 2015.

TAYLOR JORDAN

2014 Season Totals: 0-3, 5.61 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 5.96 K/9, 2.81 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR in 25.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 3.79 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 6.45 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR in 20.0 IP

After a successful rookie season in 2013, Taylor Jordan began the year in the Nationals rotation before returning to Triple-A Syracuse in early May. The young right-hander underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow in September, and began the process of working toward this spring. A groundball pitcher, the Merritt Island, Fla. native has induced a 56 percent groundball rate during his time in the Majors, peaking at 57.5 percent during his 2013 campaign, in which he posted a 3.66 ERA. Provided he’s healthy to start the season, Jordan should be ready to contribute in the role and the level the Nationals feel will be his best fit.

TAYLOR HILL

2014 Season Totals: 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 5.00 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR in 9.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 3.88 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 5.69 K/9, 1.65 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 30.0 IP

A sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft out of Vanderbilt University, Taylor Hill made his Major League debut for the Nationals in June and earned his first big league start in September of last season. While Hill ran into some tough luck during his brief MLB stint, he produced an outstanding 2.81 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse in 144 innings. Hill provides great starting rotation depth for the Nationals.

A.J. COLE

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 0-0, 4.14 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 6.99 K/9, 2.73 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 1.0 IP

Ranked as the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect by MLB.com, A.J. Cole features a fastball that sits in the mid-90s as well as a solid changeup and curveball. After being selected as a fourth-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Cole was included in the haul to acquire All-Star Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics in December 2011. But the Nationals have always been high on Cole, who was reacquired by the Nationals in January 2013 as the centerpiece of the Michael Morse trade. After a successful 2014 season between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, in which he combined for a 3.16 ERA and 111 strikeouts over 134 innings, Cole enters Spring Training with a chance to contribute to the Nationals at some point during the 2015 season.

FELIPE RIVERO

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 0-0, 4.48 ERA, 4.48 FIP, 6.86 K/9, 3.96 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 1.0 IP

Acquired with Jose Lobaton and Drew Vettleson last spring for Nathan Karns, Felipe Rivero is a hard throwing southpaw who can hit 97 mph with his fastball. He complements that offering with a curveball and a change-up, both which show promise. The native of Venezuela struck out 8.4 batters per nine innings across three levels in 2014, ending his season with a stint in the Arizona Fall League. If Rivero improves his command, the 23-year-old projects as left-handed starter in the majors, but also has potential as a left-handed stopper in the bullpen.

SAMMY SOLIS

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 0-0, 4.06 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 7.16 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 1.0 IP

A 6-foot-5 left-hander, Sammy Solis has pitched well when healthy. Solis has an impressive 3.33 ERA over the course of his Minor League career with 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings, and features a fastball that can touch 95 miles per hour to go with a solid change-up. A former second-round draft pick out of the University of San Diego, Solis has the chance to move through the Nationals’ system quickly.

Inside the Numbers: Starting Rotation

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by Mike Feigen

startersnldsWhen the Nationals take the field for Game 1 of the National League Division Series this Friday, whichever pitcher Matt Williams entrusts with the starting assignment will give the team a tremendous chance to win.

That’s what the eye test tells us.

Fans of the Nationals saw Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez win game after game — or at least help the club earn win after win — throughout the regular season. Those core members of the starting five owned a collective record of 69-42 (.622) and the Nationals went 94-55 (.631) when one of them received the ball.

However, wins and losses really don’t tell a precise story of how well a pitcher performed. Too many external factors come into play in each win and loss, such as run support, batted ball luck and bullpen performance.

Instead, we look at the types of things a pitcher can control, such as walks and strikeouts. In the case of the 2014 Nationals, no pitching staff did it better — in the history of baseball.

This season, Washington pitchers struck out 1,288 opposing batters and walked 352. That’s a ratio of 3.66-to-1, a better rate than any of the other 2,391 teams to play a full season of baseball since 1901.

In fact, only 60 other teams in history had even managed a 2.66-to-1 ratio, underscoring just how well the Nationals struck batters out and limited free passes.

But the 3.66-to-1 figure only scratches the surface.

When considering only starting pitchers, the Nationals’ figure leaps to an astounding 4.05-to-1. And when excluding the 13 spot starts posted throughout the year by Blake Treinen, Taylor Jordan and Taylor Hill — leaving just the core five of Zimmermann, Strasburg, Fister, Roark and Gonzalez — the limits of the statistical stratosphere are tested.

The final ratio? An incredible 4.30-to-1.

So, when the going gets tough and runners are on base in the postseason, Williams, pitching coach Steve McCatty and the rest of the Nationals have the numbers on their side to back up what we’ve seen in the regular season. Notching a timely strikeout instead of issuing an inopportune walk can make or break a team in October — and one team is better equipped to do it than any other.

 Name K BB K:BB ratio
Zimmermann 182 29 6.28
Strasburg 242 43 5.63
Fister 98 24 4.08
Roark 138 39 3.54
Gonzalez 162 56 2.89
TOTAL 822 191 4.30

Nationals Game Notes — June 18 vs. Houston Astros

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Game #70: Washington Nationals (36-33) vs. Houston Astros (32-40) | 7:05 p.m. | Nationals Park
Pitching Match-Ups: LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-4, 4.62 ERA) vs. RHP Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.98 ERA)
Washington Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez jumps back into the Nationals’ rotation for his first big league start since May 17 after dealing with a bout of shoulder inflammation. 
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM, also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on MASN
Live Statsnationals.com

Of note:

  • Gio Gonzalez was placed on the 15-Day Disabled List on May 18 (though he’s rejoined the roster for tonight’s finale vs. the Astros). At the time Gonzalez was placed on the DL, the Nationals ranked No. 19 in all of the Major Leagues with a 3.99 ERA from its starting pitchers. In the 27 games since Gonzalez went on the DL, Nationals starters are 14-10 with a Major League-leading 2.41 ERA (47ER/175.2 inn.) and 20 quality starts. Washington now ranks fifth in MLB with a 3.32 starters’ ERA.
  • Washington’s starting pitchers since May 18:
  • Doug Fister (5-1, 2.58 ERA, 6 GS), Tanner Roark (3-3, 1.85 ERA, 6 GS), Stephen Strasburg (3-2, 2.50 ERA, 6 GS), Blake Treinen (0-2, 2.89 ERA, 4 games/3 starts), Jordan Zimmermann (3-2, 2.36 ERA, 6 GS)

Here are the lineups for tonight’s match-up:

NATIONALS (36-33)

2 Denard Span (L) CF
6 Anthony Rendon 3B
28 Jayson Werth RF
25 Adam LaRoche (L) 1B
11 Ryan Zimmerman LF
20 Ian Desmond SS
8 Danny Espinosa (S) 2B
41 Sandy Leon (S) C
47 Gio Gonzalez LHP

ASTROS (32-40)

22 Dexter Fowler (S) CF
27 Jose Altuve 2B
4 George Springer RF
28 Jon Singleton (L) 1B
30 Matt Dominguez 3B
15 Jason Castro (L) C
2 Jonathan Villar (S) SS
19 Robbie Grossman (S) LF
46 Scott Feldman (L) RHP

Here are tonight’s game notes, courtesy of the Washington Nationals PR department. Enjoy!

Nationals reinstate LHP Gio Gonzalez, option LHP Xavier Cedeno to Triple-A Syracuse

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by Amanda Comak

Gio Gonzalez officially returned to the Washington Nationals’ active roster on Wednesday, as the Nationals returned from rehab and reinstated the left-hander from the 15-Day Disabled List, and optioned left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno to Triple-A Syracuse.

Gonzalez will start Wednesday night against the Houston Astros.

Gonzalez, 28, returns to the Nationals after missing 29 games with left shoulder inflammation.

He rejoins the Nationals’ active roster after making two rehab starts with Potomac of the Single-A Carolina League, amassing 7.2 innings and allowing nine earned runs on nine hits and eight walks.

In his final rehab start, June 12 vs. Winston-Salem, Gonzalez was touched for just one earned run off two hits, and struck out seven over four innings of work.

Prior to the first Disabled List trip of his career, Gonzalez was 3-4 with a 4.62 ERA in nine Major League starts this season, spanning 50.2 innings. The 2012 Cy Young Award finalist is 35-20 with a 3.29 ERA in 73 starts since being acquired by the Nationals before the 2012 season.

Cedeno, 27, tossed 1.0 scoreless inning in his most recent call-up, pitching a perfect frame against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 14. On the season, Cedeno has allowed two hits and no runs in 2.1 Major League innings.

Nationals place LHP Gio Gonzalez on DL, recall RHP Ryan Mattheus

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals placed left-hander Gio Gonzalez on the 15-Day Disabled List with left shoulder inflammation on Sunday morning and recalled right-handed pitcher Ryan Mattheus from Triple-A Syracuse. Gonzalez, who was undergoing an MRI-arthrogram on Sunday morning, is making the first trip to the Disabled List of his career.

San Diego Padres v Washington NationalsGonzalez, 28, is 3-4 with a 4.62 ERA (26 earned runs in 50.2 innings pitched) in nine starts for the Nationals after pitching three innings and taking the loss in Saturday’s 5-2 defeat by the New York Mets.

“We put him on the DL because he’s having an MRI-arthrogram and it’s a five-day no-throw program once you get the die,” Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo said of the procedure, which involves an injection of die into the area to give the doctors a better picture. “We’ll find out what’s going on and we’ll go from there.

“Combine having a little soreness (Saturday) with having soreness a month ago, we felt this was the prudent way to do it: give him the arthrogram so we can what’s going on in there, put him on the DL for 15 days, give him some rest and relaxation and once we find out what’s going on, we’ll take it from there.”

Since joining the Nationals in 2012, Gonzalez is tied with the Angels’ C.J. Wilson for the Major League lead among left-handed pitchers with 35 wins.

“He’s a durable starter,” Rizzo said. “That’s worth a lot. It helps the ballclub a lot when you can take the mound every fifth day. It’s something the manager and GM really like. He’s a big key to the ballclub so we’d like to get him back, but we’re going to take our time and be careful with him because he’s vital to our team.”

Gonzalez is the eighth member of the Nationals’ Opening Day 25-man roster to land on the DL already this season.

062111-688 ryan mattheus“It’s part of baseball,” Rizzo said of the injuries that have cost the Nationals in total five members of their starting eight position players and two starting pitchers. “That’s why you build depth in the organization. We’re not going to use it as an excuse. We haven’t mentioned it. We’ve got our 25, we’re going to go to battle with those guys and it’s time for guys to pick up the slack and play like they’re supposed to play.”

Mattheus returns for a second stint with the Nationals this season. In two appearances from April 29 – May 5, Mattheus spun 3.0 scoreless innings, scattering 3 singles and a walk, while fanning one.

The 30-year-old Mattheus is 7-7 with 32 holds and just three blown saves in 140 career appearances spanning portions of four seasons (2011-14) with the Nationals.

In 13 appearances with Syracuse this season, Mattheus has two saves (April 16 vs. Lehigh Valley, April 6 vs. Scranton/W-B) and a 5.93 ERA. He has walked four and struck out 11.

Nationals Game Notes — May 17 vs. New York Mets

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Game #42: Washington Nationals (22-19) vs. New York Mets (19-22) | 4:05 p.m. | Nationals Park
Pitching Match-Ups: LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-3, 3.97 ERA) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (2-5, 5.84 ERA)
Washington Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez has a lower career ERA in the month of May (2.72 ERA in 24 games/22 starts) than any other month.
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM, also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on MASN
Live Statsnationals.com

Of note:

Thanks to the efforts of Adam LaRoche (31 starts), Tyler Moore (eight starts) and Kevin Frandsen (two starts), Nationals first basemen have registered the third-highest OPS (on-base plus slugging) in Major League Baseball this season at .911. The Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers are tied for the MLB lead at .920.

For comparison’s sake, last year the Nationals’ first basemen recorded a .742 OPS, which ranked No. 17 in MLB.

Here are tonight’s game notes, courtesy of the Washington Nationals PR department. Enjoy!

Nationals Game Notes — May 11 at Oakland Athletics

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Game #37: Washington Nationals (19-17) at Oakland Athletics (22-15) | 1:05 p.m. PT; 4:05 p.m. ET | O.co Coliseum
Pitching Match-Ups: LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 2.91 ERA) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (4-1, 2.64 ERA)
Washington Nationals left-handed Gio Gonzalez  returns to Oakland for the first time since the Dec. 2011 trade that sent him to D.C. In 46 career starts at the O.co Coliseum, Gonzalez went 21-14 with a 3.56 ERA and the A’s played .609 (28-18) ball.
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM, also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on MASN2
Live Statsnationals.com

Of note:

Gonzalez faces his former team for the first time, and he’s back where he established himself as a top-echelon Major League pitcher. From 2008-2011, Gonzalez went 38-32 with a 3.93 ERA in 95 games (89 starts) and he represented the A’s in the 2011 All-Star Game. From 2010-2011, Gonzalez’s final two seasons with Oakland, he was one of only six Major League starting pitchers to record back-to-back 15-win seasons and work in excess of 200 innings in both. (C.C. Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Justin Verlander and C.J. Wilson were the others.)

From all of the Washington Nationals, we’d like to wish all mothers a Happy Mother’s Day. Here are today’s game notes, courtesy of the Washington Nationals PR department. Enjoy!

Nationals Game Notes — May 4 at Philadelphia Phillies

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Game #31: Washington Nationals (17-13) at Philadelphia Phillies (14-14) | 3:05 p.m. ET | Citizens Bank Park
Pitching Match-Ups: LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 3.25 ERA) vs. RHP Roberto Hernandez (1-1, 5.74 ERA)
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM, also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on MASN
Live Statsnationals.com

Of note:

Washington Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez has a lower career ERA in the month of May than in any other month of the season. In 23 games (21 starts) in May in his career, Gonzalez has worked to a 2.30 ERA. He’s making his first May start of the 2014 season today.

Additionally, in 77 career starts (in any month) in which Gonzalez has received two runs or more of run support while he’s in the game, the left-hander is 62-2 with a 2.94 ERA.

Here are tonight’s game notes, courtesy of the Washington Nationals PR department. Enjoy!

 

Nationals Magazine preview: Gio Gonzalez; Line in the Water

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The following is an excerpt from the April/May issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The April/May issue of Nationals Magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

by Amanda Comak

Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals’ affable left-hander, is at peace as he begins his third season in Washington, a demeanor he’s arrived at with time spent with a fishing pole in hand. 

gio line in the water1There is a spot just off the Pineda Causeway, before the bridge reconnects with U.S. Route 1 and just far enough into the Indian River, where it’s easy to feel like you’re away from the rest of the world for a while. The waves crash against the base of the bridge and the breeze tempers the late afternoon sun.

It is a spot that Gio Gonzalez found during his first Spring Training with the Washington Nationals, now three camps ago. He used to come to this small pull-off with teammates. Sometimes Michael Morse, other times Edwin Jackson or Yunesky Maya, whose knack for fishing Gonzalez still hasn’t forgotten. They’d park their cars mere feet from the water and spend a few hours letting their minds focus on the fish.

On one idyllic afternoon this February, Gonzalez came here with his father, Max. They pulled off the causeway and dropped a few lines into the water. Max lit a cigar. They gazed into the horizon and relaxed.

“Any problem you have, you come out and fish and it’s like it disappears,” Gio said.

He smiled easily as his father joked with him and told stories.

There was the time Max took Gio and his brothers to the Florida Keys for a few days when they were kids. They slept in a tent right on the shore and spent the days fishing and swimming. One afternoon, moments after they’d gotten out of the water from a swim, “the biggest manatee I ever saw swam by,” Max recalled, separating his arms to emphasize his point. “They flipped,” he added with a chuckle.

Not 10 minutes after he’d told the manatee story, Max, standing about 15 feet from his son, spotted a familiar creature and shouted excitedly to Gio. Three manatees swam by, playing with one another as they went.

“Wow,” Gio said as they passed, a smile crossing his face. “You can’t beat that with a stick.”

Just as he seemed on that afternoon, Gonzalez begins his third season in Washington with a sense of peace about him. He has put a tumultuous 2013 season — the first in his career in which he did not improve upon what he’d done the year before — behind him. The potential for greatness remains ahead.

Asked if he’s excited for the upcoming season, Gonzalez is firm.

“I am,” he said without hesitation. “We just look focused — even our young guys in camp. Everyone has a focus about them… It just feels right.”

Cover-Mag1-webTo continue reading “Line in the Water” on Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

Opening Day Memories

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by Amanda Comak

NEW YORK — The wait is almost over. In less than 24 hours, Opening Day of the 2014 baseball season will be upon us.

opening weekThis will be the Washington Nationals’ 10th Opening Day since baseball returned to D.C., and there have been plenty of memorable Opening Day moments in that span.

Who could forget Ryan Zimmerman christening Nationals Park with a walk-off on Opening Day in 2008? Or Bryce Harper smashing two home runs on his first Opening Day in the Major Leagues  — becoming the youngest player ever to do so — just last year.

But each player has their own memories of Opening Day, and it’s a special day in the baseball world. Some stand out for obvious reasons. Craig Stammen said the most memorable Opening Day for him was his first, and it also happened to be one President Barack Obama attended at Nationals Park. He shook the President’s hand. That in itself was pretty memorable.

Here are a few others, in their own words:

Adam LaRoche: “It was in Chicago (in 2012). I had like four punch-outs with the bases loaded. Luckily we won or it wouldn’t be real funny. I’ve got to be the first guy to leave like 20 guys on base through one game. I remember thinking after that game ‘Whoa, this might be a rough year.'”

To be fair to LaRoche, he was only 0-for-3 in that game, and he walked to load the bases in the eighth inning which led to the Nationals’ first run. He also went 5-for-9 with two home runs in the final two games of that opening series against the Cubs, and went on to have one of his finest seasons in the Major Leagues. 

Gio Gonzalez: “(My most memorable Opening Day) was at home against Cincinnati (in the 2012 home opener). That was when I got my first Major League hit and when I was warming up, to stretch and go out there, I thought I had plenty of time to just stretch, hear my music, get ready to go. I ended up telling (pitching coach Steve McCatty), ‘I got this. I’m ready to go.’  He said, ‘You know, you’ve got to stretch a little early because of (all the ceremonial events that go on before the game on Opening Day).’

“Next thing you know it was like 12:55 p.m. and the game was at 1 p.m. and I turned to Cat and I was like, ‘Cat, I don’t think I got this.’ I ended up not even long-tossing or throwing just went straight from stretching to the bullpen… Show and go. Sometimes it works.”

Gonzalez threw seven shutout innings that day, allowing just two hits and striking out seven.

Doug Fister: “I got called up in 2009. My first Opening Day was in 2010 in Seattle. There were a couple of us who were fairly new and our biggest thing was trying not to trip on the red carpet. They had carpet that ran from center field all the way to the line (that we had to run down during introductions).”

Matt LeCroy (bullpen coach): “My first one (in the Major Leagues). That was my debut. My first at-bat I hit a double and got a standing ovation. We were in Minnesota at the Metrodome. I made the team out of spring. I was 23 or 24 years old. It was awesome. My whole family was there. I’d just gotten married. I don’t remember (the other at-bats). But that first one was pretty cool.”

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