Nationals reward sharp Gio against visiting Giants
By Bill Ladson and Chris Haft
WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez showed the Giants who was boss -- at least on Friday night, anyway -- as the Nationals defeated the National League West leaders, 5-1, at Nationals Park. Washington has won four straight games, while San Francisco fell to 5-14 since the All-Star break.
Gonzalez, who lost to the Giants on the road last week, pitched one of his best games of the season, lasting seven innings and allowing one run on two hits. He retired nine of the first 10 hitters he faced and then allowed a solo homer to Angel Pagan. By then, the Nats already had a 3-1 lead.
"He had good command," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "He had his changeup working tonight and a occasional breaking ball. He threw his fastball in and out, which kept the Giants honest. He threw a very good game. You could tell him and [catcher Wilson] Ramos were on the same page in terms of what he wanted to throw."
Harper then made it 3-0 in the third inning with his own sacrifice fly, scoring Trea Turner. Two innings later, Turner did his part by hitting his second homer of the season, a solo shot over the left-field wall. Ramos added a solo shot over the center-field wall in the sixth inning.
Samardzija ended up pitching seven innings and allowing the five runs on six hits.
"I thought he pitched a pretty good ballgame, better than what the numbers showed," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The igniter: Turner continues to show his ability as the Nats' everyday leadoff hitter. The rookie is 17-for-47 (.362) with two home runs, nine RBIs and 10 runs scored in his last 11 games.
"He is more mature beyond his years," Baker said of the 23-year-old rookie. "He looks like a kid, but he plays like a man. He doesn't seem overwhelmed. He has given us a tremendous spark since he has been here, and we needed it."
Even though he has been much better at the plate than he was during last year's callup, Turner didn't feel comfortable at the plate until recently.
"Even than the beginning of this year and right before the All-Star break, I felt a little weird," Turner said. "Last year I never really felt right the whole time. I'm starting to feel more normal these last three or four days. I feel like I've made the adjustments I've wanted to, and I've kind of gotten back to where I feel comfortable. ... That's baseball. The more times you can feel better, the better off you will be."
Delaying the inevitable: Samardzija had allowed five home runs in his previous four starts, so the Nats' ability to go deep on him late in the game wasn't all that surprising. Turner's fifth-inning homer and Ramos' sixth-inning drive hiked Samardzija's home run total to 21 allowed, eight short of last year when he shared the American League lead.
Samardzija said that what's common about most of the home runs he has allowed is that the fateful pitches catch too much of the strike zone. But, he added, "I'm attacking anyways. I'm looking to get ahead, get quick outs and get our guys in the dugout. Gotta not get them out over the plate." More >
No room for error: In a game like this one, not much would have made a big difference for the Giants. But shortstop Brandon Crawford's first-inning throwing error didn't help. With one out and Werth at first base, Crawford made a nice play to smother Harper's grounder in the hole. Hoping for a forceout at second base, Crawford made a wide sidearm flip from his knees past Ehire Adrianza. That enabled Werth to go to third.
Gio extends trend: Since July 10, Gonzalez has three wins and a 2.03 ERA in his last five starts. His ERA dropped from 4.70 to 4.13 during that span.
"I'm going to keep coming. I haven't lost my confidence," Gonzalez said. "I want to keep fighting, keep going out there and pitching. As long as I get that ball, I'm getting stronger and stronger mentally."
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Murphy has hit safely in 17 of his last 19 games, going 27-for-64 (.422), with six home runs, 22 RBIs and 15 runs scored during that stretch.
WHAT'S NEXT Giants: Having preserved his spot in the starting rotation, Matt Cain must find a way to keep it as he confronts the Nationals in Saturday's 4:05 p.m. PT rematch. Needing to send a starter to the bullpen after Matt Moore arrived from Tampa Bay, the Giants demoted Jake Peavy and not Cain, who has won his last two starts, including beating the Nats in San Francisco last week with five no-hit innings.
Nationals: Ace Stephen Strasburg will be looking for his career-best 16th win of the season Saturday at 7:05 p.m. ET. He was just named NL Pitcher of the Month for July after posting a 2.08 ERA in five starts with 37 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings.