The Washington Nationals are bringing their impressive ERA and
penchant for winning close games to the West Coast.
They’ll send Gio Gonzalez to the mound in the opener of a
three-game set against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.
Washington (12-4) will play its first six games against NL West
opponents on this trip, moving on to face the Dodgers on Friday.
The Nationals should be well rested following two days off after
Sunday’s finale of an 11-game homestand was rained out against
With an ERA of 2.34 and a 6-2 mark in one-run games, the
Nationals believe they can contend for the East crown.
“It really validates we are a pretty good team,” said first
baseman Adam LaRoche, who has a club-high 13 RBIs. “Not just all
the talk, not just guys in spring training thinking we’re a pretty
good team. Now it’s starting to be like reality. This team is
legit. It rubs off on everybody.”
The homestand featured five one-run victories, with three going
extra innings for one of baseball’s biggest surprises in the early
“These two weeks, we had a lot of close games,” manager Davey
Johnson said. “Extra innings, a bunch of one-run games. When the
fire is hot, it makes the metal harder.”
Gonzalez (1-0, 2.04 ERA), one of the club’s major offseason
acquisitions, enters with a 14-inning scoreless streak. He yielded
two hits and struck out eight over seven last Tuesday to earn his
first victory with the Nationals, 1-0 over Houston.
He’s never faced San Diego (5-12), which is 1-6 when opponents
use left-handed starters. Jason Bartlett (4 for 6 with three walks)
and Orlando Hudson (0 for 2) are the only healthy Padres who have
San Diego’s .214 average is the NL’s second-worst mark. The
Padres, however, took advantage of another offensively-challenged
team to split four games at home with Philadelphia coming into this
After getting outscored 6-1 in losing the first two games, San
Diego outscored Philadelphia 11-2 to take the last two. Nick
Hundley continued to break out of an early slump with a homer and
four RBIs in a 6-1 victory Sunday.
Hundley has gone 10 for 26 over his last seven games after
starting 0 for 21.
“I don’t think my swing ever left, I think my approach and my
mental state was terrible early on,” he said. “I think my swing was
OK, I just had to keep battling.”
If Hundley is behind the plate Tuesday, it will mark the second
straight time that he’ll catch Clayton Richard (1-1, 5.89) after
John Baker caught Richard’s first two starts.
Richard has yielded 12 earned runs over his last two outings
after giving up none over seven innings of his season debut April
8. He allowed eight runs in 5 1-3 innings of an 8-4 defeat at
Colorado on Wednesday.
The left-hander has gone 1-2 with a 3.48 ERA in five career
starts against Washington.
The Nationals won the 2011 season series 4-3.