Bryce Harper homers twice, Gonzalez brilliant as Nationals blank Reds
CINCINNATI (AP) - Gio Gonzalez was tired after throwing eight shutout innings on a hot and muggy evening. His manager wanted him to face one more batter, and the left-hander took it as a compliment.
Gonzalez pitched four-hit ball into the ninth inning, retired Joey Votto to open the inning on his 113th pitch, and let the bullpen finish off the Washington Nationals' 5-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.
Bryce Harper extended his mid-July tear with two homers as the Nationals got rolling out of the All-Star break with a solid all-around win.
"Just a good way to start the second half," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez (8-4) snapped his streak of three straight tough-luck losses. He allowed a double and three infield singles before leaving. Matt Albers gave up three singles, and Matt Grace escaped the bases-loaded threat for his first save.
Gonzalez thought he was done after the eighth inning, but manager Dusty Baker wanted him to face Cincinnati's most dangerous hitter leading off the ninth before taking the night off.
"I got some work in today, definitely," said Gonzalez, who had not gone eight innings this season. "It was good to see that (Baker) let me go out there in the ninth. I was told to go out there in the ninth and pitch, and I felt good enough to keep pitching."
The Reds were shut out for only the second time this season. Four of their seven hits were infield singles.
Harper had a two-run shot and a solo homer off Tim Adleman (5-7) as the NL's top offense got right back in form after the All-Star break. Harper has 22 homers overall, four during his nine-game hitting streak.
Baker had offered Harper a day off if he needed one after the All-Star Game, but the outfielder turned it down.
"I want to stay in the lineup, and every single day I'm in there to do some damage," Harper said.
The Nationals lead the league in most categories on offense and featured three starting position players in the All-Star Game — Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy. Murphy got a planned day off on Friday, and the rest of the offense carried on without him.
Anthony Rendon extended his hitting streak to eight games with an RBI single. Stephen Drew also drove in a run with a single off Adleman, who lasted only 4 1/3 innings — his season low for a start that didn't involve an injury.
Gonzalez had lost his last three starts despite allowing a total of five runs, getting little help from his offense or the bullpen. Everything fell into place to end the streak.
"We weren't able to get any pressure on Gio," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We didn't have any push at all to get back into the game until the ninth inning. I think we only had six baserunners. That was a dominant performance."
The Reds got only two runners as far as second base against Gonzalez, who walked two and struck out six.
Brian Goodwin saved a run in the fourth inning. He made a diving catch of Jose Peraza's sinking liner with two runners aboard for the final out, what Gonzalez called "a monster play in center field for me."
GOING, GOING ...
The Reds have given up 148 homers, on pace to shatter their major league record from last season when they allowed 258. It was Harper's fourth multi-homer game of the season and the 14th of his career.
Starter Joe Ross (5-3) went on the 10-day DL with a sprained elbow. There's no indication how long he'll be sidelined. The Nationals also called up relievers Austin Adams and Trevor Gott from Triple-A Syracuse and optioned LHP Sammy Solis.
Nationals: OF Jayson Werth is taking longer than anticipated to recover from a bruised left foot, which he fouled a ball off on June 5. Baker says the foot still bothers him when he runs hard.
Reds: C Devin Mesoraco will catch in the bullpen on Saturday. The Reds then will decide whether he needs a rehab assignment before returning from the DL. He's been sidelined since July 3 with a strained left shoulder.
UP NEXT: Saturday vs. Washington, 7:10 p.m.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (10-5) started for the NL in the All-Star Game on Tuesday and pitched one inning.
Reds: RHP Luis Castillo (1-1) makes his fifth major league start. He made his debut in Washington on June 13 and gave up solo homers to Goodwin and Rendon during five innings of a 6-5 loss.