Efficient Gonzalez goes an extra inning
Gio Gonzalez encountered a problem in his start against the Cardinals on Saturday that he usually doesn’t face: He was too efficient. Gonzalez needed just 29 pitches to hold the Cardinals scoreless over three innings in his second Grapefruit League outing. The brisk pace forced him to log a third inning even though he was scheduled for two.
“They were being aggressive, so it was tough to [throw] some of the pitches I wanted,” said Gonzalez, who surrendered one hit, issued one walk and didn’t record a strikeout in a 1-1 tie. “So I was like, ‘You know what, let me start mixing them in now.’ ”
Gonzalez is durable and consistent — he has made at least 31 starts in six of the past seven seasons — but he has never been mistaken for efficient, so the pitch total was a positive sign for the left-hander as he revs up for the season. He posted a 4.57 ERA — 17th-highest ERA in baseball among qualified starting pitchers — in 2016.
“Last year, a lot of times he would get 0-2 and then end up 3-2 and then end up walking a guy or something, and you add two or three pitches per batter,” Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said. “That adds up quickly, and then it gets up there high in a short period. He doesn’t want to come out, but I got to take him out. And I told him a number of times, ‘I don’t want to take you out.’ But the situation and the inning of the game dictates what I have to do, and so if he wants to stay out there longer, you got to minimize the amount of pitches you throw in a short period of time, stay away from the high pitch count inning. That’s number one. He was very, very good today.”
Gonzalez had pitched just one inning this spring — in the Nationals’ Grapefruit League opener — before tossing two bullpen sessions and pitching Saturday. He said his biggest takeaway was commanding his curveball, which helped in inducing two double plays and plowing through the St. Louis lineup.
“It’s a lot different when you’re facing hitters,” Gonzalez said. “So I had a good opportunity to get some groundball outs. Guys made some great plays and got me through the innings real quick.”