CHICAGO -- As Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez walked off the mound after a shaky first inning in Thursday night's 3-1 loss to White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, it would have been hard to imagine him staying in the game for seven innings.
But Gonzalez quickly found a groove to retire the next 11 batters, while he flashed command of all of his pitches to finish a strong outing. Gonzalez did not yield a run after the first inning and logged a season-high 10 strikeouts, however, that first inning was the decisive frame.
"I've got to get on the ball right off the bat," Gonzalez said. "That first inning, that's how it goes sometimes. That's why you have to be aggressive right out of the chute. Just one inning too late."
Oddly enough, Gonzalez had been especially strong in first innings. He had not surrendered a first-inning run in 31 consecutive starts before that streak was snapped on Thursday. And this was a big start for Gonzalez, after struggling through his previous three outings -- logging a 10.34 ERA as opposing batters hit .357 against him.
Gonzalez got himself into trouble in the first inning against the White Sox with a pair of one-out walks to Austin Jackson and Jose Abreu. Gonzalez nearly got out of the inning after forcing Todd Frazier to line out to center field, but he gave up back-to-back doubles to Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie.
Gonzalez buckled down from there and turned in one of his best outings of the season. It was an encouraging sign after his ERA had skyrocketed two full runs after his previous three starts. After that first inning, Gonzalez held the White Sox to just three hits with no walks and nine K's.
"It just seemed like he was more determined," Nats manager Dusty Baker said. "When a guy shows that kind of determination, you got to give him a shot. They scored all their runs in the first inning. And they really didn't threaten a whole bunch after that."
On what changed after that first inning, Gonzalez added: "Just talked to [pitching coach Mike Maddux] a little bit. From there, it was: 'You know what, that's it.' The switch was turned back on. And I felt good after that."
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.