First Posted: 9/9/2013
(AP) Gio Gonzalez was inches from a no-hitter and the Washington Nationals hit five home runs Monday night, including long balls by their first two batters, in a 9-0 rout of the New York Mets.
Gonzalez held the overmatched Mets hitless into the seventh before pinch-hitter Zach Lutz broke up the bid with a soft single for New York's only hit. Lutz swung at the first pitch of the inning and hit a looper that landed on the first base line, taking out a chunk of chalk well behind the bag.
First baseman Adam LaRoche made a diving attempt as the ball hit the dirt, but it squirted by and into foul territory along the right field line. First base umpire John Hirschbeck correctly called it fair, and Gonzalez (10-6) paused behind the mound to stare in his direction.
After that, the left-hander kept sailing along in a dominant performance. He struck out eight and walked two for his second career shutout and fourth complete game, improving to 5-0 in his last six starts against the Mets.
Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman hit back-to-back homers to start the game. Jayson Werth and Tyler Moore also connected off Carlos Torres (3-4), roughed up by Washington for the second time in six weeks.
Wilson Ramos added a three-run shot off reliever Greg Burke.
Handed a huge lead, Gonzalez was in cruise control as he won his third straight start. He faced three batters more than the minimum to help the Nationals, on the fringe of the NL wild-card chase, win their third in a row and fifth in six games.
Washington gave Gonzalez a two-run lead before he took the mound, hitting two homers on Torres' first eight pitches.
Span's shot to right field was his sixth career leadoff homer and first for the Nationals this season. It also extended his hitting streak to 20 games, the longest active run in the majors.
Zimmerman followed with a drive to left-center for his fourth home run in three days and sixth in the last seven games.
It marked the third time this season that a team hit back-to-back homers to begin a game, according to STATS. Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran did it for St. Louis on April 26 against Pittsburgh, and Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout connected for the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 6 against Texas.
Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper were the last Nationals pair to achieve the feat on June 3, 2012, against Atlanta. The previous time the Mets served up homers to the first two batters in a game was June 28, 2003, when Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter went deep for the Yankees, STATS said.
Span singled in the third, Zimmerman walked and Werth hit a three-run shot to left-center.
Moore opened the fourth with a long drive to straightaway center, making it 6-0. Ramos connected in the fifth, and the only drama left was Gonzalez's pursuit of a no-hitter.
Torres gave up six runs and five hits in four innings. He's made four solid starts for the Mets and turned in two duds against the Nationals, including their 14-1 rout on July 28.
NOTES: Harper sat out again with a sore left hip. Harper, scratched from the lineup Saturday in Miami, was examined by team doctors in Washington, and manager Davey Johnson said tests showed inflammation but no structural damage. The 20-year-old slugger will take oral medication and miss at least the first two games of the series. ... Johnson said RHP Tanner Roark will start the series finale Thursday. ... All but four of Zimmerman's 21 homers this season have come on the road. ... At the end of spring training next year, the Mets plan to play two exhibition games against the Toronto Blue Jays at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. ... New York called up OF Mike Baxter, C Juan Centeno and RHP Aaron Harang from Triple-A Las Vegas. Harang, who was 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA for Seattle this year, said he was slotted to start Thursday in the series finale against Washington. That would bump back LHP Jonathon Niese at least a day. The Mets need an extra starter this week because of an upcoming doubleheader Saturday against Miami. ... 1B Ike Davis (oblique) and LHP Scott Rice (sports hernia), both out for the season, were placed on the 60-day disabled list.Associated Press