Gio is MLB's first 20-game winner as Nats roll

Gio is MLB's first 20-game winner as Nats roll

Gio is MLB's first 20-game winner as Nats roll
WASHINGTON -- Left-hander Gio Gonzalez did something Saturday that had not been done in Nationals history. He became the club's first pitcher to win 20 games in a season as the Nationals pounded the Brewers, 10-4, at Nationals Park.

With the win, the Nationals are 92-59 for the season, and their magic number for clinching the National League East dropped to six.

Gonzalez became the second pitcher in franchise history -- Ross Grimsley for the 1978 Expos is the other -- to win 20 and the first pitcher in Nationals history to strike out 200 batters in a season.

Gonzalez declined to give himself any credit for what he accomplished.

"As a team, the feeling right now? We feel amazing," Gonzalez said. "This team has been unbelievable. It doesn't feel like a 20-win season for myself. It feels like a 20-win season for the team. This is a childhood dream, but at the same time, this is a team in first place, and it makes it that much better."

Gonzalez pitched seven innings and allowed two unearned runs on three hits. Both runs were scored in the sixth inning on a Ryan Braun groundout and sacrifice fly by Aramis Ramirez.

After Christian Garcia struck out Yorvit Torrealba to the end the game, there was Gonzalez giving the biggest hug to pitching coach Steve McCatty.

"I was looking for Cat, because it was just one of those things where your pitching coach deserves that credit," Gonzalez said. "He is a guy who helped out and has kept me even keel all year. There are specific guys you want to hug and you want to say, 'Thank you so much.' The credit goes to our infield completely. Our catchers have been doing great. Kurt Suzuki was a huge pickup, and he has been calling a great game every time I go out there. My confidence is built more and more."

Gonzalez would later give his father, Max, two game balls. Gio credits Max for his success this year. In fact, it was Max, who taught his son the fundamentals of pitching. Max taught Gio how to throw his famous curveball and perform his long-toss program.

It was Max who told his son to warm up his arm with a basketball and a softball. Gio said his father is the reason he never had an arm injury.

Max Gonzalez never played professional baseball. He simply studied the game and knew its history. Gio went so far as to say that Max is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to baseball history. But Max is more than just a baseball coach. He taught Gio about life.

"It looks like a dream. You can only imagine other people doing it," Max said after the game. "What can I tell you. It's like a dream come true for every dad. Gio listened to me and worked it out. That's why he is rewarded. He works hard."

Asked if his son should win the Cy Young Award this year, Max was neutral, but just by the sound of his voice, he wanted his son to win the award.

"I love [R.A.] Dickey and think Dickey is good for the game. I know he is good," Max said. "But there is a difference between pitching for a playoff contender and pitching for numbers. My son is pitching to stay afloat. It's a different ballgame. I feel that 20 wins, 200 strikeouts and 200 innings are good numbers. Of course, Dickey is awesome. I love Dickey. I also like Johnny Cueto."

Seeing Gio winning 20 games is huge for Nationals manager Davey Johnson.

"Pitching is the main thing in baseball. ... It's bigger than a hitter, for me, hitting .300," the skipper said. "He has had such a phenomenal year. That was a typical Gio game -- low pitch count, low hits."

Johnson said Gonzalez surpassed expectations after the Nationals traded four prospects to the Athletics for him last winter.

"He is special. His personality, his competitiveness, he is fun," Johnson said. "My thing is hits per inning. That tells the type of pitcher he is. His [numbers] are phenomenal."

Gonzalez received what looked like a scare in the top of the seventh inning. With one out and Martin Maldonado at the plate, Gonzalez slipped on the mound while throwing a 1-2 pitch. He was on the ground -- face down -- for several seconds before getting up. He was attended to by Johnson, coaches and trainers, then playfully tipped his cap to the crowd before getting Maldonado to strike out and Jean Segura to ground out to end the inning.

"They asked, 'How did you feel? Are you hurt?' I said, 'Absolutely. My pride is.' I held my head up and smiled. You give the fans what they deserve -- a show," Gonzalez said.

Washington's bats helped Gonzalez get all the runs he would need, and more, by the fourth inning. With Wily Peralta on the mound, Washington scored three runs in the third inning. Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche had RBI doubles, while LaRoche scored after Ian Desmond reached base on an infield single and Segura committed a throwing error at shortstop.

An inning later, former Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez was on the mound when the Nationals scored six runs. Ryan Zimmerman and Desmond hit three-run homers.

"I love Livo. He is a true professional. He is a great teammate. He had some great years here, but he is wearing a different uniform. I have no sympathy," Johnson said.

Tyler Thornburg was on the mound in the sixth inning when the Nationals scored their last run of the game on a home run by LaRoche. It was LaRoche's 32nd home run of the season, which ties a career high.

"It was a fun day. We swung the bats good," Johnson said. "We had a lot of quality at-bats."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.