The Washington Nationals caught the break they needed to stave off elimination in the best-of-five NL division series.
Gio Gonzalez will try to help send it back east for a decisive fifth game by continuing his success against the San Francisco Giants.
Having snapped San Francisco’s NL-record postseason win streak, Gonzalez and the Nationals look to stay alive Tuesday night when they oppose 2012 postseason hero Ryan Vogelsong in Game 4 at AT&T Park.
Including a 2-1, 18-inning home loss in Saturday’s Game 2, Washington went 21 consecutive innings without scoring before breaking through in the seventh Monday en route to a 4-1 victory that cut its series deficit to 2-1.
The Nationals pushed across two runs on Madison Bumgarner’s throwing error before Bryce Harper hit his second home run of the series in the ninth, helping Washington end the Giants’ 10-game playoff winning streak.
"We just needed one break," closer Drew Storen said after allowing one run in the ninth. "It’s been a tough couple innings here to start and we got our break. It’s just a matter of building on it, and we live to see another day."
Gonzalez (10-10, 3.57 ERA) is coming off a strong close to the regular season ahead of his third career postseason start. He’s held opponents to three earned runs or less in his last seven outings, going 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA.
The left-hander struggled while failing to earn a decision in two starts against St. Louis in the 2012 NLDS, allowing a combined five runs with 11 walks over just 10 innings.
Gonzalez displayed excellent command down the stretch in 2014, striking out 27 while walking three over his last four starts. He did not face the Giants this season, though he’s gone 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in four meetings since the start of 2011.
Hunter Pence (1 for 12), Pablo Sandoval (1 for 10) and Buster Posey (3 for 14) haven’t fared well against him, but Brandon Crawford is 2 for 6 with a home run and two RBIs.
Sandoval went 2 for 4 on Monday, extending his postseason hitting streak to 14 games – the longest in Giants playoff history. Brandon Belt added two hits, leaving him 7 for 17 with a home run and five RBIs in these playoffs.
The Giants, however, have totaled three runs while batting .159 – including 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position – over 27 innings in the past two games. Crawford, Joe Panik and Gregor Blanco are a combined 0 for 29 over that stretch.
San Francisco didn’t provide Vogelsong (8-13, 4.00) with much support last month, totaling three runs in his five starts. The right-hander certainly didn’t help matters by posting a 5.53 ERA while going 0-4 in that span.
Vogelsong could turn things around by pitching as well as he did during the club’s 2012 run to the World Series title. He went 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in four starts that postseason, including 5 2-3 innings in a 2-0 win at Detroit in Game 3 of the Series.
"It would have been nice to finish it up (Monday), but these are the times you play this game for," the 37-year-old said.
Vogelsong, though, is 1-2 with a 7.94 ERA in five career starts versus Washington after giving up nine runs and 13 hits over 11 1-3 combined innings in two outings this season – both San Francisco losses.
Ian Desmond is 3 for 6 with a home run, triple and four RBIs when facing him in 2014, but Harper has gone 1 for 8 with four strikeouts all-time in the matchup. Anthony Rendon is 7 for 15 in this series after adding two more hits Monday.