After winning the first-game of the three-game series on Monday night, the D-backs have crept back into first place in the NL West with a 17-11 record.
Starter Taijuan Walker and four relievers struck out 11 Nationals on Tuesday night -- the eighth consecutive game of 11-plus strikeouts for the staff. That ties the major-league record set by the Cleveland Indians in 2014.
For the season, the D-backs are averaging 9.47 strikeouts per nine innings, a big jump from last year's 8.17.
D-backs starting pitcher Robbie Ray (2-1, 3.56 ERA)
Ray was originally drafted by Washington in the 12th round in 2010 out of high school in Tennessee. He spent four seasons in their minor-league system before being traded to Detroit and subsequently Arizona. He is 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA in two career starts vs. the Nationals.
He suffered his first loss of the season on Saturday night vs. Colorado, giving up five hits, three walks and three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings while striking out nine. He's struck out 39 and walked 17 while limiting opponents to a .220 batting average.
Ray's pace of 11.57 strikeouts per nine innings is ahead of last season's 11.25 pace, which ranked second among all major-league starting pitchers.
Gonzalez is off to a strong start after four consecutive seasons of rising ERAs. He finished last year 11-11 with a 4.57 ERA.
He's given up no more than two earned runs in all five of his starts this season. He limited the Rockies to two runs in 6 2/3 innings in his most recent start last Thursday in Denver.
He credits Washington catchers, middle infielders and pitching coach Mike Maddux for his improvement. "We sit down and go over every hitter," Gonzalez said. "We are talking every inning. I am all ears. You have to have an open mind. You have to use your talent and also take advantage of what other people give you."
Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 3.44 ERA in six career starts against Arizona. But several of the D-backs right-handed hitters have good track record against him -- notably Paul Goldschmidt (8 for 12), A.J. Pollock (4 for 9) and Yasmany Tomas (3 for 4).
Brad MillsBrad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Relievers to the rescue
While the Arizona bullpen has had a couple of notable blowups, it's also demonstrated some notable resiliency.
The D-backs got 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief pitching from T.J. McFarland, J.J. Hoover, Jorge De La Rosa and Fernando Rodney to shut down the major-league's top offense on Tuesday night, and that followed 6 2/3 innings of scoreless relief against the hard-hitting Rockies on Sunday.
In the past two games, Arizona relievers have worked 11 scoreless innings, giving up five hits and four walks and striking out 16. J.J. Hoover is unscored upon in his last 11 outings, lowering his ERA to 1.69.
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Left on left
The D-backs have to hope the left-handed Ray gives them more of a fighting chance to counteract two of the Nationals' most dangerous hitters -- Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy.
Harper was on base three times on Tuesday, raising his season on-base percentage to .513. All nine of Harper's home runs have come off right-handers, but he's hitting .556 (10 for 18) in limited exposure to left-handers so far this season.
Murphy had a two-run single and a walk on Tuesday. In the past two seasons against the D-backs, he's 8 for 15 with three walks and six RBI. He's hitting .352 with four of his five home runs against right-handers and .294 against lefties this year.