Gio plagued by another rough inning in loss

Lefty: 'I threw pitches I wanted with conviction, they just put it in play'

Gio plagued by another rough inning in loss

CINCINNATI -- The Nationals have pointed to one bad inning each time in Gio Gonzalez's past three starts, the most recent being in Friday's 7-2 loss to the Reds, as the reason for his struggles on the mound lately.

The Nationals have seen few similarities between those troublesome innings, and their only resemblance is the fact that they keep happening. A five-run third inning against the Mets on May 23, a four-run second inning against the Cardinals on May 28 and a four-run second inning on Friday night have doomed Gonzalez in three straight starts.

"There's no pattern to it, there's no explanation to it," he said.

He was especially baffled by this outing against the Reds, in which Gonzalez threw as hard as he has all season, touching 92-93 mph consistently and even hitting 94 at some points. He matched a season high with eight strikeouts and did not issue a walk. And yet, he allowed five runs on nine hits over six innings, although he did not allow a run over his last three frames.

"There's also a silver lining to this," Gonzalez said. "Velocity was up, which is great, there's progress. That's what I wanted. You're seeing signs of the old Gio. Velocity is coming back, offspeed pitches are staying down now. I threw pitches I wanted with conviction, they just put it in play."

Still, the Nationals have to get Gonzalez back to where he was in April, when he was one of their best pitchers. After these past three starts, his ERA has ballooned from 1.86 on May 18 to 3.94 after this most recent outing.

"We need Gio," manager Dusty Baker said. "We need him to break this streak that he's on."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.