The Washington Nationals dismantled the St. Louis Cardinals 10-0 behind a masterful performance from pitcher Gio Gonzalez on AU Night at Nationals Park Aug. 31.
The night marked the climax of a season-long partnership between the Nationals and the University. The AU community gathered for a picnic in the park and to root for the hometown team. President Neil Kerwin took the mound to throw out the first pitch prior to the game. School mascot Clawed also stood at the finish line of the fan favorite Presidents’ Race and took part in in-game fan challenges.
AU reported giving out over 20,000 “Nationals WONK” T-shirts to members of the AU community and fans.
“Having the University featured at the park is very important,” Kerwin said. “The Nationals have developed into a real force in the community.”
Kerwin, however, was not the story on the mound Friday. That privilege belonged to Gonzalez, who recorded his first career complete-game shutout while earning his 17th win to tie for the National League lead.
Behind chants of “Let’s go, Gio!” Gonzalez allowed five hits, three walks and struck out eight on 119 pitches.
“Man, it’s just one of those things where you just can’t explain it,” Gonzalez said of the chants. “It felt like a boost of energy, kinda like having a Red Bull right there in the ninth.”
After a five-game losing streak where the team was outscored 26-6, the Nats have roared back to outscore their opponents 26-5 in the last three contests.
The recent surge could be attributed to manager Davey Johnson’s recent speech, when he called a team meeting before the Aug. 29 game against the Miami Marlins. The team proceeded to double up the Marlins 8-4 and end a five-game skid.
“That’s what a great manager does,” Gonzalez said. “He sees there is a little glitch in the system, he fixes us back up and gets us going. That little speech he had for us was one of a kind and got us where we wanted to be right now.”
The team continues to pitch at a high level and the bats have been outstanding, especially Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper.
Werth went 3-3 with three runs scored, one RBI and added two walks in the 10-0 win over the Cards. Harper pitched in with a 2-4 night, scoring one run and driving in two others.
Werth and Harper have combined to bat .423 with 11 runs scored, four home runs and 12 RBI in the last three games. Ryan Zimmerman finished off the Nats’ shutout with a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning.
“I think we’re having good at-bats, and everybody is hitting in good situations and everybody is coming up clutch,” Harper said. “When one guy hits, everybody hits and that’s the biggest thing. I think everybody is going up there with confidence.”
Washington will finish up the weekend against the Cardinals before starting a series with the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park Sept. 3.
Staff writer Zach C. Cohen contributed to this report.