WASHINGTON — Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez insisted all along he wasn’t distracted one bit by having his name connected to a clinic that reportedly gave major leaguers banned substances.
“I’ve got no worries about that,” he said the other day.
Well, Gonzalez sure played like someone without a care in the world Wednesday night, hitting his second career homer — grinning his way around the bases — and pitching six scoreless innings, helping reigning NL East champion Washington beat the Miami Marlins 3-0.
Gonzalez (1-0), a 21-game winner in 2012 who finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting, allowed only two hits, along with five strikeouts and two walks. The Nationals, who beat Miami 2-0 on Monday, have held the Marlins without a run so far this season. Washington’s public relations staff said it’s only the 13th time a major league club has opened a season with two consecutive shutouts.
His solo shot to left field off Kevin Slowey (0-1) came with one out in the fifth. Gonzalez let a big smile crease his face as he crossed home plate then headed to the dugout for high-fives. He came back out to the steps to give a quick wave as many in the crowd of 26,269 — nearly 20,000 fewer than opening day — chanted his name, sounding like “Gee-oh! Gee-oh!”
Gonzalez also hit the previous homer by a Nationals pitcher, last season at Houston on Aug. 8.
Slowey gave up one run and four hits in 5 1-3 innings. When he made his major league debut on June 1, 2007, for the Minnesota Twins against Oakland, his catcher was Mike Redmond. And Redmond was present Wednesday, too: He now is Miami’s rookie manager and, at 41, the second-youngest skipper in the majors.
After hitting two homers in Game 1, Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper went 2 for 4 with a double. The 2012 NL Rookie of the Year scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s single in the eighth off reliever A.J. Ramos.
The Nationals scored an unearned run in the seventh off Ryan Webb with an unusual series of events. Danny Espinosa reached on second baseman Donovan Solano’s fielding error, was bunted over to second, took third on a wild pitch — one of two by Webb in the inning — and scored on Denard Span’s fielder’s choice grounder.
Even that last bit was odd: Pinch-runner Roger Bernadina ran right into Solano and hugged-slash-tackled the fielder as he tried to collect the ball and throw it to first, where Span was safe.
Washington’s bullpen completed a second shutout of a Marlins lineup that provides little help to slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
Ryan Mattheus pitched the seventh, Drew Storen took care of the eighth, and new closer Rafael Soriano improved to 2 for 2 in save situations since leaving the Yankees as a free agent. Soriano put two men on with one out in the ninth, before getting Placido Polanco and Justin Ruggiano to fly out.
Gonzalez was done after 91 pitches on a chilly evening. He would blow on his throwing hand between pitches, trying for some semblance of warmth with the temperature at 45 degrees for the 7:08 p.m. first pitch and only dipping from there.
The only real trouble for Gonzalez came in the fifth. Ruggiano led off with a double into the right-field corner, and Gonzalez then walked Miguel Olivo. But Casey Kotchman hit a comebacker that turned into a 1-6-3 double play. Making things worse for the Marlins: Kotchman strained his left hamstring and was replaced at first in the bottom half by Greg Dobbs. Gonzalez struck out Adeiny Hechavarria to get out of the inning.
In January, Gonzalez and other major leaguers were linked in media reports to a now-closed anti-aging clinic in Florida that was alleged to have sold banned performance-enhancers. Gonzalez denied wrongdoing and later said blood and urine tests he was given two days after the initial report came back clean.
Major League Baseball’s investigation is ongoing.
“I’ve got no worries about that,” Gonzalez said this week. “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.”
NOTES: Nationals C Kurt Suzuki started, after Wilson Ramos started behind the plate in Game 1. Manager Davey Johnson says he plans to alternate his two catchers. … In the series finale Thursday, RHP Jordan Zimmermann will start for Washington, LHP Wade LeBlanc for Miami. “He looks like he’s easygoing, but there’s fire in there,” Johnson said about Zimmermann.
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