WASHINGTON (AP) As soon as he got a close look at Gio Gonzalez in spring training, new Washington Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton knew he was going to encourage the left-hander to throw more changeups.
So far, so good: Gonzalez has allowed one run through 12 innings this season. His second start came Tuesday night, when he gave up only three singles over six innings to lead the Nationals to a 5-0 victory over the Miami Marlins.
Mixing in extra changeups along with his low-90s mph fastball and top-notch curveball, Gonzalez allowed one baserunner to get as far as second, retired his last 10 batters, and improved to 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA.
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”If you’ve got a third pitch working,” Lobaton said, ”it’s going to be fun.”
One side benefit of going to the breaking ball? Gonzalez’s fastball, which normally is at about 93 or 94 mph, is ”going to look 95-96,” Lobaton said.
Gonzalez, who was born in Hialeah, Fla., has won his last four starts against the Marlins. His 3-0 mark against them in 2013 was part of the Nationals’ 14-5 edge in the series against Miami a year ago.
”He was effectively wild tonight and he made the pitches when he had to,” said Miami’s Jeff Baker, who went 0 for 3. ”With his stuff, even when he’s out of the zone, it’s still going to be a battle. That’s the way it is every time you face him.”
Adam LaRoche had three hits and drove in a run off Henderson Alvarez (0-2). Anthony Rendon went 2 for 4 with three RBIs as Washington improved to 5-2.
Miami entered an NL-best 5-2, a year after finishing with a league-high 100 losses. Led by Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins were averaging a majors-best six runs a game, but they couldn’t solve Gonzalez or four relievers.
Stanton went 1 for 4 with a single; it was his first game in 2014 without an RBI. Miami put runners on second and third with two outs in the seventh against Drew Storen, but pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs flied out.
”These guys have some good pitchers but we got to find a way to score some runs,” Miami manager Mike Redmond said. ”We had a couple opportunities. We just didn’t get a big hit. But I’ve said that a lot over the last couple years, too.”
The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the first. Jayson Werth hit a two-out double to left-center and LaRoche followed with an RBI single.
With two outs in the sixth, LaRoche was at first and Bryce Harper at third after both singled, and a pitch momentarily got away from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. LaRoche took off, and Saltalamacchia’s throw was dropped by second baseman Baker, who was charged with an error. LaRoche was safe, and Harper scored without a throw, making it 2-0. Rendon then tacked on a run-scoring single, before adding a two-run double off Mike Dunn in the eighth.
Rendon, usually Washington’s second baseman, started at third because Ryan Zimmerman is dealing with a sore throwing shoulder. Rendon played third base in college at Rice and made one particularly nice play Tuesday, charging Reed Johnson’s bunt with two men on in the seventh and throwing him out at first.
”I guess,” said Rendon, in his second year in the majors, ”I still have a little bit left.”
NOTES: Zimmerman hasn’t played in the field since Saturday but said he hopes to be back at his usual spot against Miami on Wednesday. … Marlins RHP Jacob Turner strained his pitching shoulder during batting practice and will miss his scheduled start Wednesday. Instead, LHP Brad Hand, who has been in the bullpen, will start against RHP Jordan Zimmermann.
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