Gonzalez became the second pitcher in franchise history to win 20 games
Their Major League-best starting rotation seemingly weakened after shutting down Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals continue to roll, and pitching is a key reason why. On Saturday, left-hander Gio Gonzalez became the second pitcher in franchise history to win 20 games and the first pitcher in Nationals history to strike out 200 batters in a season.
In Washington’s 10-4 victory over Milwaukee, a team that is battling for the second wild card spot in the National League, Gonzalez accomplished a feat that only Ross Grimsley had previously done for the organization that was launched as the Montreal Expos. Grimsley was 20-11 with a 3.05 ERA in 1978. Unlike that club, which finished under .500, the Nationals are 92-59 and cut their magic number for clinching the National League East title to six.
At 20-8 with a 2.84 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and a .204 opponent’s batting average to accompany 201 strikeouts in 193.1 innings, Gonzalez is a National League Cy Young Award candidate along with Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto and New York Mets’ knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
What could sway voters towards Gonzalez is the importance of his performance in the absence of Strasburg. The 27-year-old Gonzalez is 7-3 with a 2.08 ERA in his last 10 starts and has anchored a rotation that also includes Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Ross Detwiler and John Lannan.
A supplemental first round selection by the Chicago White Sox out of high school in 2004, Gonzalez has been part of four significant trades. In December 2005, when he was a minor leaguer, he was the player to be named later sent from the White Sox to the Phillies for Jim Thome. A year later, she was shipped back to the White Sox with Gavin Floyd for Freddy Garcia. In January 2008, Gonzalez was dealt from the White Sox to the A’s in a package for Nick Swisher.
After spending parts of 2008 and 2009 in the majors (with 7.68 and 5.75 ERAs respectively), Gonzalez carved a niche as one of the top lefties in the American League. He was 15-9 with a 3.23 ERA in 2010 and 16-12 with a 3.12 for A’s clubs that were not contenders.
Washington was projected to be improved this season, but their 92-59 record is a surprise. Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo is undoubtedly grateful that he made the trade for Gonzalez, who gives the team a frontline starter capable of carrying his teammates through the postseason with Strasburg unavailable.