Gonzalez goes 6 innings as Nationals top Braves 7-2
VIERA, Fla. (AP) Gio Gonzalez pitched six innings in his longest outing this spring and the split-squad Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 7-2 Sunday.
Gonzalez didn't walk a batter and gave up seven hits. He was especially with the zero walks.
''I know that I was behind on a couple of guys, but I'm just happy I still pounded the strike zone and attacked the hitters,'' Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez credited Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux and the team's director of mental conditioning, Mark Campbell, for helping him slow down his motion and his approach.
In the past, Gonzalez has been known to get the ball and go, which sometimes led to an inconsistent delivery. Now he is giving his arm time to catch up with his body.
''It gives me time to throw all three pitches,'' he said. ''It's finding a rhythm. Once you find a rhythm, things start clicking together, and I think that's what it was.''
''Just giving (myself) a chance to trust my curveball, trust my changeup and trust my fastball. All three pitches worked for me very well today,'' he said.
Campbell has given Gonzalez a breathing technique to use, particularly when he finds himself in a jam.
''He's definitely helped me out,'' Gonzalez said of Campbell. ''He's got a little catch phrase for me that's pretty cool - `Feed the family.' It helped today, just constantly slowing the game down. You get yourself in a situation, go back to that word.''
Ryan Zimmerman got three hits and drove in three runs. Jayson Werth, Daniel Murphy and Ben Revere each had two hits and Bryce Harper had an RBI single and scored twice.
Atlanta starter Jhoulys Chacin went five innings, giving up two earned runs and 10 hits.
Gordon Beckham had two hits for the Braves, including a first-inning home run off Gonzalez.
Chacin also delivered an RBI single against Gonzalez in the fifth inning. Earlier, Gonzalez hit a bloop double off Chacin.
RUNS IN BUNCHES
The Nationals have scored seven or more runs in four straight games and 11 of their 23.
A DOUBLE FOR GIO
After legging out a bloop double in the second inning, Gonzalez and umpire Laz Diaz appeared to share a laugh.
''Laz was like, `Do you want that ball?''' Gonzalez smiled. ''I was like, `No. I didn't hit it hard enough to get it.'''
Braves: It was an important start for Chacin, who is trying to make Atlanta's rotation. He went five innings and gave up five runs (two earned) on 10 hits.
''The way I assess it, he threw the ball over the plate,'' Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ''He threw strikes. He's a contact type pitcher. Some of the runs he gave up, some of the hits were tough plays to make.''
Nationals: Getting out of spring training healthy has been an emphasis of the Nationals all spring, particularly after last season, when they dealt with a number of injury issues. So far, so good.
''I think we're doing outstanding, knock on wood,'' Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. ''I don't believe in jinxes, but things are going pretty well right now.''
Braves: Mike Foltynewicz gets the start as the Braves host Doug Fister and the Houston Astros.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg will start in the Nationals' final home game of the spring against the Miami Marlins.
In discussing the possibilities for the Nationals bench this season, Baker was asked if he would prefer to have speed on the bench.
''Maybe,'' Baker said. ''But speed that can't hit ain't speed.''