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.