Allowing four runs on eight hits over 5.2 innings, the most expensive of the Nationals’ trio of aces was labouring through most of his 109-pitch start, striking out just three batters (tied for a season-low) and treading dangerous waters with four free passes.
Taking his third loss of the season, Gonzalez could not get Washington back to .500 over their last 10 games, and the team will exit the month of May having won just one series — and that was a two-gamer.
There’s a silver lining to all of this, though: despite the lack of winning, the Nationals’ lefty is unquestionably back in form.
See, while the loss on Monday puts the 27-year-old at just 1-1 for month of May, he’d been a victim of bad luck more often than not. In fact, the four earned runs that Gonzalez allowed against the Orioles was the most he’d given up in any of his five starts — which means that, yes, he was coming off a four-game quality start streak going into Monday.
Even with a shaky outing to close the books on the month, the ace’s numbers are still mightily impressive. He’s allowed just nine runs over 32.2 innings, good for a 2.48/1.13 ERA/WHIP that brings his number to a more palatable 3.90/1.25 on the season.
Batters are just hitting .202 against him in May, but the biggest improvement he’s made has definitely been in the control department.
This will seem somewhat ironic (or at least untimely) considering that he just walked four batters in his latest outing and has walked at least two batters in all but one of his starts in the month, but here’s the thing: Gonzalez might not have lasted through six full innings on Monday, but it was the first time that he’d failed to do so in May, compared to the four of six times in April that he lasted just five full innings or less.
In all, his walk rate is a much more palatable 3.31 BB/9 compared to the unsightly 5.06 that he carried as the month.
Combined with a dramatically improved 0.55 HR/9 (1.13 in April), and the overall picture of Gonzalez now resembles much more of the Cy Young candidate from 2012 instead of the inconsistent-but-talented disappointment he was in his first full year with the Oakland Athletics in 2009.
Should the Nationals be content at some point to give him more than the 124-ranked 3.4 runs of support that they’ve given him in May, the lefty should be back on the winning track sooner rather than later.