Nationals-White Sox Preview
CHICAGO -- Interleague play has brought out the best in Washington Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez.
On Thursday, Gonzalez will look to extend his dominance against American League foes to three straight starts. The 30-year-old southpaw will take the ball for the Washington Nationals (36-23) as they look to complete a three-game sweep against the Chicago White Sox (29-30) at U.S. Cellular Field.
Washington won the first two games of the series by a margin of 21-9. The Nationals have scored 31 runs in their past three games and rank second in the National League with a run differential of plus-66. The only team with a greater run differential in the National League is the Chicago Cubs (plus-149).
As the Cubs and Nationals have surged, the White Sox have nosedived. Manager Robin Ventura's team has lost five consecutive games and 20 of the past 26 games to plunge into fourth place in the American League Central. The White Sox led the division for 47 days before a month-long swoon that has knocked them below .500.
"We need to get momentum going in the right direction, and how we do that is scoring runs and shutdown innings," said right fielder Adam Eaton, who finished 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI in Wednesday's loss. "That's the key to being successful, and we need to do that."
To snap the skid, the White Sox will have to solve a southpaw who has dominated their division rivals.
Gonzalez (3-4, 3.94 ERA) won his first two interleague starts of the season against Kansas City and Minnesota. During those starts, he allowed two earned runs in 12 innings for a 1.50 ERA. He walked three and fanned nine.
The White Sox will counter with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 3.93 ERA), who rejoined the starting rotation on a short-term basis after left-hander Carlos Rodon complained of neck discomfort. The stakes are high for Gonzalez, who could bump right-hander Mat Latos from the fifth spot in the rotation with a good outing.
In his most recent start for the White Sox June 1, Gonzalez allowed one earned run in five innings against the New York Mets. He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen against the Detroit Tigers four days later.
It will not be easy for Chicago's Gonzalez to slow down a red-hot Nationals team.
"When every single person is on the same page, we're a fun team to watch," said Nationals center fielder Ben Revere, who was one of four players to notch at least three hits in Wednesday's 11-4 win. "With the starting rotation that we've got, with the bullpen, with everything, it's going to be really fun to watch.
"We've got a bunch of guys in here, and we're going to have plenty more at-bats to come by and a lot more games to play. It's one of those deals, I'm excited to see it when everybody in the lineup is clicking. Not just the lineup, this whole team. We're going to be a real tough team to beat."