Gio Gonzalez didn’t have much time to worry about an infield single ending another no-hit bid. Not with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols due up.
Gonzalez shook off a single up the middle by Trout, walked Pujols and was saved by Daniel Murphy’s leaping catch at second base. Six innings of two-hit baseball from Gonzalez was more than enough for the Washington Nationals to snap the Angels’ winning streak at six with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.
For the second time in three starts, Gonzalez (11-5) flirted with a no-hitter. He had one through eight innings July 31 in Miami, and against the Angels he lowered his home ERA to a major league-best 1.79 while striking out four and walking three.
“He has been giving us the opportunity to win games because he gets outs when he needs them,” said outfielder Howie Kendrick, who hit two solo home runs two days after a walkoff grand slam against San Francisco. “Ground balls, double plays and he has been commanding the ball really well. Making pitches that he needed, striking guys out, I mean that’s what you need from your starters.”
Gonzalez has developed consistency that was lacking earlier in his career this season throwing to catcher Matt Wieters and could give the Nationals an underappreciated third starter in the playoffs behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Manager Dusty Baker doesn’t want the left-hander thinking that far ahead, and he isn’t because he came close to unraveling in the sixth
“I think that’s just letting Murphy talk to you and then letting Murphy make the play,” Gonzalez said. “If it wasn’t for his play, it’s a different ballgame. We wouldn’t be talking with so much smiling. We’d be talking with more `Got to make a better pitch.“’
Gonzalez and relievers Matt Albers, Brandon Kintzler and Sean Doolittle made enough good pitches to hand the Angels their first loss since Aug. 7. Lefty Tyler Skaggs (1-3) allowed the two home runs to Kendrick among his seven hits in five innings and struck out six, while Cliff Pennington hit a home run in the eighth — the first run Kintzler has allowed since a trade from Minnesota to Washington.
After climbing into the second AL wild-card spot with the winning streak, the Angels hope they can maintain their winning ways in a crowded group of teams.
“It’s one game,” Skaggs said. “Definitely you want to go out there and keep the ball rolling.”
TROUT FEELS FOR HARPER
After Trout missed six weeks earlier this season with a torn ligament in his left thumb, the Angels center fielder is glad Bryce Harper’s knee injury isn’t as bad as it looked. Harper, who slipped on a wet first base on Saturday night, avoided any ligament or tendon damage.
Trout said “it’s good for baseball” that Harper will be back this season and isn’t seriously injured.
“It was obviously a scary thing,” Trout said. “You see a guy do that, it’s scary. You think of the worst. But you hope the best comes out of it.”
Angels: Manager Mike Scioscia said LHP Andrew Heaney, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session and could join the rotation as soon as this weekend if things go well. Scioscia he was “pretty comfortable” that RHP Garrett Richards, out since April with a biceps strain, would pitch again this season.
Nationals: After RHP Stephen Strasburg struck out five in five innings of a minor league rehab start Monday night, manager Dusty Baker said if things go well his next start could be in the majors. Strasburg would be lined up to face the Padres in his hometown of San Diego this weekend. OF Brian Goodwin (groin) wasn’t in uniform Tuesday, but Baker said he wasn’t sure about a trip to the DL. SS Trea Turner took batting practice for the first time since breaking his right wrist in late June. LHP Enny Romero (forearm strain) threw a bullpen session Sunday and hopes to go on a rehab assignment soon.
RHP Ricky Nolasco (5-12, 5.24 ERA) starts for the Angels against Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (9-7, 4.74) in the finale to the brief interleague series.