Things started badly for Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals and never got better.
Erasmo Ramirez pitched six scoreless innings and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Nationals 6-1 on Monday night to move into first place in the AL East.
“We got behind early, and (Ramirez) kind of got his confidence going,” said Denard Span.
It was just the opposite for Gonzalez, who didn’t get through the fourth inning when he fell behind 5-0.
“I wasn’t being aggressive. I was falling behind and trying to get back in the strike zone and they were putting it in play,” said Gonzalez, who gave up eight hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings. “They found holes, they found hits … You’ve got a team that’s red-hot right now. You fall behind and give them a chance to score some runs, they’re going to do it.”
The Rays chased Gonzalez (4-4) in the fourth when Evan Longoria had a sacrifice fly and Logan Forsythe added a run-scoring single, his third hit of the game. Tampa Bay went up 3-0 with a two-run third as Forsythe had an RBI single that went off Gonzalez’s heel. Left fielder Michael Taylor’s catch against the wall with two men on base kept Washington in the game, but only for another inning.
“(Gonzalez) just couldn’t throw it where he wanted to throw it,” said Nationals manager Matt Williams. “He just didn’t have any command today.”
Ramirez (6-2) won for the sixth time in his last seven starts following a winless stretch of 25 games that included 15 starts.
Tampa Bay won for the 12th time in 16 games.
Longoria left with a bruised left wrist after being hit by a Taylor Hill pitch in the fifth. X-rays were negative.
Washington slugger Bryce Harper returned to the lineup and went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and a walk as the designated hitter. He got hit on the inside of his left leg above the knee in the ninth inning Saturday by a 95 mph fastball from Milwaukee reliever Michael Blazek and didn’t play Sunday.
The Nationals got a bases-loaded RBI single from Yunel Escobar in the ninth before Harper lined into a game-ending double play.
Harper drew a two-out walk in the third to load the bases, but Ramirez got out of the jam by getting a grounder from Wilson Ramos. Clint Robinson lined out to first with the bases loaded to end the fifth.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Souza Jr. tied a team record with walking five times. He was left stranded on base all five times.