Braves-Nationals Preview

Major League Baseball on Monday released its list of suspended
players who were found in an ongoing investigation to have used
performance-enhancing drugs, and Gio Gonzalez’s name, just as he
anticipated, wasn’t among them.

Now he can get back to focusing on his pitching, which must
improve if he plans to help the host Washington Nationals end the
Atlanta Braves’ 11-game winning streak Tuesday night.

Gonzalez (7-4, 3.57 ERA) had been linked to the Biogenesis
scandal since rumors began circulating before spring training that
he may have been involved with the now-closed Florida anti-aging
clinic that supplied PEDs to major and minor leaguers.

Though some former All-Stars were issued suspensions Monday,
Gonzalez wasn’t one of them.

“I am very pleased that Major League Baseball has cleared my
name,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “I have no lingering sense of
animosity, as I quickly realized that the objective of this
investigation was to clean up our game.”

He wasn’t exactly pleased with his last performance, though.

Gonzalez gave up 10 runs – his most since allowing a career-high
11 against Minnesota while with Oakland on July 20, 2009 – and a
personal-worst 11 hits in 3 1-3 innings of Wednesday’s 11-1 loss at
Detroit.

He had gone 4-0 with a 2.06 ERA in his previous 10 starts.

“In three months, you’re going to run into a hiccup,” Gonzalez
said.

The left-hander, though, is 5-0 with a 1.92 ERA in his last 12
starts versus the NL, including allowing one run and striking out
seven over seven innings before Atlanta rallied for a 2-1,
10-inning victory June 1.

Gonzalez’s first two starts against the Braves didn’t go as
well. He gave up seven runs in five innings of a 9-0 loss April 14
before allowing five in four frames of an 8-1 defeat April 30
despite nine strikeouts.

He’s 2-4 with a 5.73 ERA in seven career starts versus Atlanta
(68-45), which beat Washington 3-2 on Monday to extend its NL East
lead to 13 1/2 games.

Justin Upton, who is hitting .405 with four homers during a
10-game hitting streak, led off the eighth with a tiebreaking homer
to help the Braves earn their longest winning streak since a
15-game run in 2000.

Freddie Freeman had RBI singles in the third and fifth.

”You want to step on their necks, especially when we’ve got
this big of a lead,” Freeman said. “I think we set the tone.”

The Nationals (54-58) have dropped four of six and are 3-8
versus Atlanta this season. Former Brave Adam LaRoche drove in a
run for Washington, which has been outscored 26-8 during a
five-game home losing streak against the Braves.

”We’ve got to turn this thing around,” said reliever Tyler
Clippard, who gave up Upton’s homer. “Two months left, and we’re
(13 1/2) games back. We’ve got to get moving.”

The Nationals have dropped 16 of 24 and have scored two or fewer
runs 14 times in that stretch. Runs may be difficult to come by
again Tuesday, when Julio Teheran takes the mound for Atlanta.

Teheran (8-5, 3.02) has a 1.00 ERA over his last three starts,
earning his only victory in that stretch Thursday by allowing one
run and striking out a career high-tying 11 in an 11-2 win over
Colorado.

The right-hander has made three starts versus the Nationals this
season, going 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA. Denard Span is 6 for 9 with two
triples off Teheran.