Gio caps Nats' stellar weekend of pitching

Gio caps Nats' stellar weekend of pitching

WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez was not thrilled about having to follow Max Scherzer's no-hitter in Sunday's finale vs. the Pirates.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for #ASGWorthy players

"It was kind of tough to follow up on his act," Gonzalez said. "Back-to-back starts, he's been incredible. I'm happy just to get through five [innings] and see how it goes."

Four hits and four strikeouts over seven scoreless innings in the Nationals' 9-2 win was not a bad second act.

"I think he used his curveball a lot," manager Matt Williams said. "He threw some changeups, but for the most part his curveball was effective for him. In a big spot, he got Andrew McCutchen on one and he threw it early in the count, too, which as we've talked about a lot, it just makes his fastball late even better."

Gonzalez's RBI double

The outing was the third straight impressive start Washington received from its starting pitchers this weekend. On Friday, it was Joe Ross' 7 1/3-inning, 11-strikeout coming-out party, and Saturday belonged to Scherzer.

After left-hander Matt Thornton threw a scoreless eighth inning Sunday, the Nationals had held the Pirates without a run in 24 consecutive innings, a new team record.

"It's not hard," Clint Robinson said when asked what it's like to play defense behind such impressive pitching. "Striking out a lot of guys and not a lot of hard contact. When those guys go out there and do that, we're going to win a lot of ballgames when they do that."

Felipe Rivero allowed a two-run home run in the ninth inning to stop the streak, but thanks to nine first-inning runs -- one of which scored on a Gonzalez RBI double -- the Nats' third straight win and the left-handed starter's fifth victory of the year was never in doubt.

"I just think that the last three guys that we've had start games have pitched really well," Williams said. "That sets our tone, certainly. It doesn't mean it's going to happen every day, but I like the way we were aggressive offensively early as well."

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.