Originally written on The Nats Blog  |  Last updated 11/18/14

Gio Gonzalez came into Sunday’s Washington Nationals game against the Atlanta Braves looking to replicate his last start where he gave up just one hit in seven innings. Unfortunately, he wasn’t even able to come close to that. He lasted just 4.2 innings with 91 pitches on the way to a 3-2 loss for the Nats.

The game certainly got started the right way for the Nats offense, though. In the top of the first, Steve Lombardozzi destroyed his first career home run off the back wall of Nats bullpen. Not to be outdone, Harper hits a second-deck homer above Nats bullpen for the team’s third back-to-back jack on year. According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, it was the first time in the modern era that two rookies had hit back-to-back home runs to lead off a game. That would pretty much do it for the Nats offense, though.

They didn’t score again, as Tommy Hanson had an incredible outing for the Atlanta Braves. He went seven innings on just 84 pitches. He didn’t walk any and struck out six. He was absolutely dominating.

The Nationals’ three through six hitters combined to go 0-for-16 today, which makes it close to impossible to win a baseball game. After the game, Davey Johnson said about Ryan Zimmerman, “I feel like he’s close... [I] feel like he’s just inching closer to feeling comfortable up there.” When asked about if he thought Zimm’s shoulder was still bothering him, he said, “It might be, but he’s not gonna say anything about it. He knows his importance to this ball club.”

With the loss, the Nats fell to 30-22 on the season and are now tied with the Miami Marlins for first place in the NL East. You should definitely get used to this narrative all summer, as the division doesn’t show signs of getting any less competitive. Not to mention, the division will face off against the AL East, the best division in the AL, in interleague play starting next weekend.

Some Thoughts:

Danny Espinosa has gotten a lot better recently. Over the last 12 games, he’s hitting .282 with a .391 OBP. I’m not saying he’s fixed. He still strikes out a ton, but it is certainly encouraging.

Bryce Harper is an aggressive player, and I applauded him for it when he was gunned out at second trying to stretch a single into a double on Saturday. On Sunday, though, he tried to stretch a double into a triple and was thrown out again. He would have been in scoring position with just one out had he stayed at second; it was an inexcusable error. Harper will learn when to be aggressive and when to play it a bit safer over time, but more often than not, aggressive is good. 

- Ian Desmond has just seven errors through 51 games this year, and he had a couple of nice grabs in Sunday’s game, one in the third and one in the sixth. This really does look like it could be the year that the Nats had hoped for with their young shortstop. I think moving him out of the leadoff spot made a real difference.

- Mike Gonzalez came in for Craig Stammen and faced the minimum in the 8th after getting rookie Andrelton Simmons to ground into an inning-ending double play. Gonzalez was added to the 40-man roster just before Sunday’s game and is the fourth lefty in the Nats bullpen. That’s probably not sustainable long-term.

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