Gonzalez, Nationals blank Royals 2-0 to win 4th straight
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Dusty Baker has been around long enough to know hitters tend to heat up with the weather.
In the meantime, the Nationals manager is content to rely on his pitching to win games.
Gio Gonzalez and the Washington bullpen combined on a five-hitter Monday night, picking up slumping slugger Bryce Harper and the rest of the offense in a 2-0 victory over the World Series champion Kansas City Royals.
Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy drove in the only runs in the first inning.
''It usually takes you a little while to get going,'' Baker said. ''Early in the season, you rely a lot on your bullpen because your starters are only able to go six or seven innings.''
Gonzalez (2-1) went just six, but he scattered four hits and a pair of walks in his latest smooth start. He's allowed only four earned runs combined in his first five outings.
Sammy Solis needed eight pitches for a spotless seventh, and Shawn Kelley and Oliver Perez combined to strike out three straight after a leadoff double in the eighth.
Jonathan Papelbon handled an easy ninth for his ninth save, ensuring the Nationals their fourth consecutive win.
''That is one heck of a lineup,'' Gonzalez said. ''They're going to go up there and work the count. They're not going to swing just to swing. They're going to go out there and put some balls in play and make some damage out of it. I'm just grateful some of those balls were hit at guys.''
Edinson Volquez (3-2) needed 29 pitches just to navigate the decisive first inning for Kansas City. But he wound up giving his team a chance, allowing seven hits and a walk in 7 2/3 innings.
The loss was the sixth in seven games for the weak-hitting Royals. Three have been shutouts.
''We're not firing on all cylinders offensively,'' manager Ned Yost said. ''We've got guys that are struggling right now, guys that are proven players, guys that have tremendous track records and they're going to break out of it here real soon.''
In the first inning, it looked as if the Nationals would continue the misery Volquez experienced his last time out against the Angels, when he allowed eight runs on a career-high 12 hits in five innings.
Michael Taylor worked a full-count, leadoff walk, and Anthony Rendon followed with a single. Zimmerman drove in the first run with a double, and Murphy's run-scoring groundout made it 2-0.
Volquez eventually settled down, retiring nine straight before Murphy's single in the fourth. But by that point, Gonzalez was doing such a good job keeping the slumping Kansas City lineup off balance that even a two-run lead seemed insurmountable.
Gonzalez didn't allow a single until the third, then watched catcher Jose Lobaton throw out Lorenzo Cain trying to steal to end the inning. Gonzalez allowed another single in the fifth before getting out of a two-on, one-out jam by inducing back-to-back fly balls to end the sixth.
''Us being able to nab Lorenzo at third base right there was a big turning point in the ballgame,'' Murphy said. ''Great play by Jose behind the plate.''
STATS AND STREAKS
Harper ended an 0-for-16 skid with a soft single in the sixth, though he was promptly thrown out trying to steal second. … Murphy reached 1,000 career hits with his double in the sixth. … Royals 1B Eric Hosmer had a single and two walks. He's reached base safely in 20 of 21 games. … Gonzalez snapped a five-start winless streak in interleague play. … Kansas City was 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
ROYAL (BLACK AND) BLUE
Kansas City outfielder Alex Gordon was plunked leading off the second inning. It was the 71st time that Gordon has been hit by a pitch, tying him with David DeJesus for third-most in club history.
Royals RHP Luke Hochevar was available out of the bullpen after getting a couple of days off to rest some minor tightness in his elbow. Hochevar has had Tommy John surgery in the past, so Yost said he was being cautious with him. ''He feels good,'' Yost said.
Royals RHP Chris Young and Nationals RHP Tanner Roark spent part of the 2013 season as teammates at Triple-A Syracuse in the Nationals organization. Young returned to the big leagues the following season with Seattle, and he has spent the past two seasons in Kansas City.