WASHINGTON (AP) — Gio Gonzalez ended a personal skid that spanned more than two months — and helped give the Washington Nationals a four-game split with another National League East contender.
Gonzalez pitched seven strong innings for his first victory since May 28, leading the Nationals to a 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday.
“I think I was just happy that I got to high-five my teammates for the first time in a while,” Gonzalez said. “For me it was not the pressure, it was just the going out there and doing what I can do to go out there and try and pitch the best I can. Today it finally showed. It finally stepped to the right direction that I wanted.”
The Nationals moved within 5 1/2 games of idle NL East leader Philadelphia. The Braves fell a game behind the Phillies.
Gonzalez (7-8) snapped a seven-game losing streak and had gone 11 consecutive starts without a victory. He allowed six hits and one walk while striking out three. Nick Markakis’ solo homer to lead off the second was the lone run he allowed.
Atlanta starter Anibal Sanchez pitched two scoreless innings but left after getting hit in the left calf by a grounder from Michael Taylor. Manager Brian Snitker said he was hopeful Sanchez would make his next start.
“It looked like Anibal was going to have one of his games starting out,” Snitker said. “He was sharp as can be. We just had a hard time getting ahold of Gio. That was the biggest thing. We couldn’t do anything with him.”
Sanchez was replaced by Wes Parsons (0-1), who yielded a bases-loaded walk to Juan Soto and a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rendon as Washington went ahead in the third.
Taylor homered to left in the fourth to bump Washington’s lead to 3-1, and Daniel Murphy added an RBI double in the sixth.
But Parsons worked five innings in his major league debut, vital for a team that had two starters last only two innings during the series in Washington and heads home to face Milwaukee after a 5-3 road trip.
“A winning road trip, you take that every single time,” said Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, who had three hits. “Sometimes, you have to lose a battle to win the war. I thought what Wes Parsons did was absolutely huge for this ballclub. That’s going to win us games later on with a fresh bullpen.”
Ronald Acuna Jr.’s one-out homer in the eighth pulled Atlanta within two runs, but the Nationals got RBIs from Ryan Zimmerman and Mark Reynolds in the bottom of the inning to make it 6-2.
Washington went 7-3 on its homestand and begins a seven-game trip to face the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis.
“It was big, a big win for us,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Happy flight.”
Washington outfielder Bryce Harper was scratched from the lineup with right knee soreness. Atlanta reliever Dan Winkler hit Harper just below the right knee in the seventh inning on Wednesday night. Martinez said X-rays on Harper were negative.
Parsons and Adam McCreery both made their major league debuts for Atlanta, combining to pitch the last six innings. It was the first time the Braves had two pitchers debut in the same game since June 30, 2015, when Jake Brigham and Ryan Kelly did so against Washington.
Braves: 3B Johan Camargo was out of the starting lineup for the first time since July 14. He struck out as a pinch hitter to end the game. Charlie Culberson filled in at third for Camargo.
Nationals: Martinez said RHP Stephen Strasburg (cervical nerve impingement) will throw at least one more bullpen session before the team decides whether he is ready for a minor league rehabilitation start. Strasburg has not pitched for Washington since July 20.
Braves: RHP Kevin Gausman (0-1, 5.40 ERA) makes his second start since his acquisition from Baltimore as Atlanta returns home to open a three-game series with Milwaukee.
Nationals: Washington begins a three-game series in Chicago against the Cubs with RHP Jeremy Hellickson (5-2, 3.56) getting the nod.