Gio Gonzalez homers, pitches Nats past Mets 5-1
NEW YORK (AP) Gio Gonzalez apparently gets his swing ready in spring training, too.
The pitcher homered in his first start for the second straight season – sprinting around the bases because he didn’t realize it was gone – and tossed three-hit ball to lead the Washington Nationals over the New York Mets 5-1 Wednesday night.
”I think it was the fastest home run jog in baseball,” Gonzalez said. ”I was about to slide home!”
Gonzalez also registered six of Washington’s 13 strikeouts, giving the staff a total of 31. In a post on Twitter, the Nationals said that’s the most for any team after two games in modern major league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
STATS confirmed the 31 whiffs by New York batters were the most in the first two games since at least 1914, surpassing the previous mark of 28 by Houston hitters against Texas last season.
Ian Desmond also went deep and Jayson Werth had four hits for the Nationals, who followed up their 10-inning comeback on opening day with a more routine victory against one of Gonzalez’s favorite foes. The left-hander walked one in six comfortable innings, improving to 6-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his last seven starts against New York.
Left fielder Bryce Harper threw out a runner at the plate, and Denard Span scored twice following extra-base hits.
”Today was definitely a little smoother for me personally,” first-year Nationals manager Matt Williams said. ”What you worry about is a little bit of a letdown, with everything coming out of spring and a day off, it’s easy to have a letdown. But they didn’t. They were ready to go today, which was great.”
Mets manager Terry Collins stacked his lineup with eight right-handed hitters, but it hardly mattered. New York provided little support for Bartolo Colon (0-1), touched up for nine hits over six innings in his Mets debut.
The beefy right-hander signed a $20 million, two-year contract in the offseason after going 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA for Oakland last year, when he finished serving a 50-game suspension for a positive drug test.
Desmond and Gonzalez (1-0) both homered in the fifth against Colon.
”I think I pitched very well,” Colon said through a translator. ”They were just coming out a little high, that’s all.”
Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen finished a three-hitter.
Mets closer Bobby Parnell has a partially torn elbow ligament that might require surgery, and new outfielder Chris Young came out in the second inning with tightness in his right quadriceps. The injury kept Young on the bench in the opener.
”I feel terrible about not being able to contribute,” he said.
Juan Lagares, an early bright spot, got the Mets off to a good start with a leadoff triple. He scored on David Wright’s sacrifice fly, snapping Gonzalez’s streak of 16 shutout innings at Citi Field.
Consecutive doubles by Werth and Adam LaRoche tied it in the fourth. Desmond hit the first pitch of the fifth over the left-center wall, and Gonzalez went deep two batters later.
A right-handed batter, the pitcher drove a 2-2 delivery off the railing just above the shortened fence in left-center at Citi Field. The ball caromed back onto the outfield grass and Gonzalez sprinted home, unaware that second base umpire Todd Tichenor was signaling home run.
”That was epic. That’s going to go down in the memory bank for a long, long time,” Desmond said.
Back in the dugout and out in the bullpen, Gonzalez’s teammates had a blast.
”I was trying to catch my breath as the guys were piling on,” Gonzalez said. ”I was just trying to find an oxygen tank.”
The umpires didn’t even look at a replay.
”Even the bullpen guys were telling me, `You were running away like you were running from the cops!”’ Gonzalez said. ”I don’t know what that is about, but I guess I know what it is now.”
It was Gonzalez’s third career homer. He also connected during his first outing last season off Miami’s Kevin Slowey, and in August 2012 against Houston right-hander Armando Galarraga.
”He swung that bat good, didn’t he?” Williams said. ”He’s got bragging rights for a few days, anyway.”
Ruben Tejada tried to score from first when Lagares doubled inside third base with two outs in the fifth, but was cut down at the plate on a strong throw by Harper.
”The things he can do with that arm are pretty special,” Desmond said. ”Your instincts tell you what a normal outfielder can do, not one with a Bazooka.”
NOTES: Williams recalled playing third base behind Colon when the right-hander made his major league debut with Cleveland in 1997. … Washington RHP Jordan Zimmermann starts the series finale Thursday afternoon against RHP Zack Wheeler.