After a stellar start, the Washington Nationals couldn't keep their momentum going on the road. They're hoping a return home will get them rolling again.
Gio Gonzalez will try to build on an impressive season debut and lead his franchise to its first 4-0 start at home in a decade in Tuesday night's interleague opener against the Chicago White Sox.
Washington (4-2) became the 13th team since 1900 to open with back-to-back shutouts and outscored Miami 11-1 in a three-game sweep. The Nationals followed that effort by getting outscored 27-10 while dropping two of three in Cincinnati.
Washington will try to bounce back by improving to 4-0 at home for the first time since 2003, when the franchise was known as the Montreal Expos. The Expos won their first nine home games in 1981.
Gonzalez (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will be looking to turn in another stellar performance. Despite dealing with a headache, the left-hander allowed two hits and struck out five over six innings, and hit his second career home run in a 3-0 victory over Miami last Tuesday.
Gonzalez, who won a career-high 21 games and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2012, entered this season facing questions for his involvement with a now-closed anti-aging clinic in Florida that reportedly sold performance-enhancing drugs.
Gonzalez has denied wrongdoing and said subsequent blood and urine tests have come back clean. Major League Baseball's investigation is still ongoing.
"I've got no worries about that," he said. "I'm not ready to argue or talk about that. I'm ready to move forward. I'm already over it. I'm ready to move past that and focus on 2013."
Gonzalez, 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA in his last nine interleague starts, will face a White Sox team that's used its power during a 4-2 start. Chicago is batting .230 but 11 of its 45 hits have been home runs, including three in a 4-3 win over Seattle in 10 innings Sunday.
"Sometimes you're going to score runs with homers. We're here to score runs any way you can," Rios said.
The White Sox will seek a season-high third straight win with help from Jake Peavy (1-0, 1.50), who also had a strong debut to this season. The veteran right-hander struck out six and gave up two runs and four hits over six innings in a 5-2 win over Kansas City on Wednesday.
Peavy's next start will open a 10-game road trip for Chicago.
"Getting on the road is always fun," Peavy told the team's official website. "At the same time, we're going to face some pretty good baseball teams. ... The biggest thing is coming out of this road trip with our head above water, not letting things get away from us and having a bad road trip."
Peavy is 6-2 with a 1.63 ERA in eight interleague starts since joining the White Sox in July 2009 and has earned two wins over Washington in that span. He tossed a three-hit shutout in his most recent game in the nation's capital on June 19, 2010, and is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA in three starts there.
Gonzalez is 0-4 with a 5.86 ERA in five matchups with the White Sox but has allowed a combined three runs in his past two meetings.
The teams have split 12 all-time matchups but Chicago is 4-2 in Washington.
|Chicago White Sox|
|March 22, 2013||Leyson Septimo||15-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|March 22, 2013||John Danks||15-Day DL||Recovery from left shoulder surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Christian Garcia||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm tendon|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- If Adam LaRoche , Jayson Werth and the rest of the Washington Nationals keep hitting homers, it'll help cover up other mistakes.
LaRoche ended an 0-for-15 start to the season by going deep in consecutive at-bats, Werth and Ian Desmond also homered, and the Nationals overcame some sloppiness on the basepaths and from their bullpen to open an early interleague series by holding on to edge the Chicago White Sox 8-7 Tuesday night.
The Nationals have 10 homers in their past three games.
"We've got a really balanced lineup. That's something that we have that most teams don't. It's tough on matchups. It's tough on pitchers, really," Werth said. "There's not really an easy spot in our lineup."
He and LaRoche each hit a two-run shot off Jake Peavy in the sixth, an inning after Desmond went deep.
LaRoche added a solo homer in the eighth off Matt Thornton , Chicago's fifth pitcher. LaRoche had missed the previous two games with a back muscle problem.
"You get into the second week of the season," LaRoche said, "that's never a good feeling to look up there and not have a hit."
Said Nationals manager Davey Johnson: "I wasn't worried about him."
Werth also tacked on an RBI single off Matt Lindstrom for an unearned insurance run in the seventh, part of a stretch in which the Nationals scored in each of their last five innings. That allowed Washington to hold on even though Alex Rios took closer Rafael Soriano deep for a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth. Soriano got Paul Konerko - who homered earlier - to fly out to end it and record his third save in four chances.
"Wasn't pretty," Johnson said. "Whew."
Bryce Harper and Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez , who left after five innings and didn't factor in the decision, were thrown out by Rios from right field while trying to stretch early singles into doubles.
Craig Stammen (2-0) got the win despite allowing a run and three hits in the sixth.
Johnson insisted he isn't nervous about his bullpen.
"It's early in the year. Guys are not throwing like I know they're capable of," he said. "Soriano - he's not exactly where he needs to be, as far as I'm concerned. He's mostly just throwing fastballs and locating fastballs. He hasn't used much of his other stuff."
But a good offense masked other problems, including Desmond connecting off Peavy (1-1) leading off the fifth on a humid evening with the first-pitch temperature at 81 degrees.
"That's a good lineup and they're going to work you," Peavy said. "It was hot and humid. I mean, I was pouring sweat, losing a lot of fluid and was going through hydration stuff."
With the score 2-all, Denard Span started the sixth with a double. That's when Peavy got a mound visit from bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen , filling in for pitching coach Don Cooper , who missed the game because he went to the hospital with a stomach illness.
Thigpen returned to the dugout, and Werth promptly sent Peavy's next pitch to left for his third homer.
Peavy struck out Harper, but walked Ryan Zimmerman , bringing up LaRoche, who hit a 1-1 pitch near the 402-foot sign in straightaway center to make it 6-2.
"Ran out of gas and didn't have much there," said Peavy, who gave up six runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings. " Jayson Werth kind of knew what we talked about there on the mound. That pitch wasn't bad and he looked to do damage, and not hit the ball the other way, and he got us. I didn't have much there for LaRoche and he put a good swing on it."
Konerko answered for the White Sox, hitting a three-run homer off Tyler Clippard in the seventh to pull Chicago to 6-5.
But the Nationals kept adding runs.
"Up and down the lineup," Desmond said, "we're doing great."
NOTES: White Sox 2B Gordon Beckham left in the third inning with nerve irritation in his left wrist; he said he felt pain after fouling off a ball while batting in the second. He was replaced by Angel Sanchez . Beckham said he got X-rays that showed "there's no structural damage; there's no break." ... With Thigpen filling in for Cooper, bullpen catcher Mark Salas handled Thigpen's duties. ... With no DH in an NL park, and a lefty starter on the mound for Washington, White Sox slugger Adam Dunn was out of the lineup - a rest day he didn't really want. Asked about the different DH rules in baseball's two leagues, Dunn said: "I do have an opinion. But I'd like to keep it to myself, because I like my job." He was on deck when the game ended.
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