Gio Gonzalez tossed six scoreless innings on Monday as the Washington Nationals squeaked past the Philadelphia Phillies, 2-1, in the opener of a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park.
Gonzalez (6-1) allowed just three hits and fanned nine while walking three, lowering his earned-run average in the process to an impressive 1.98. Craig Stammen worked two scoreless innings in relief and Henry Rodriguez started the ninth and struggled with his command, but was bailed out by Sean Burnett, who collected his second save of the year.
"With Henry, it's either lights out or sometimes it's exciting," Nats manager Davey Johnson said. "Again, Burnett did a heck of a job bailing him out."
Ian Desmond provided the offense with a solo home run and an RBI single for the Nationals, who dropped two of three to the Beltway-rival Baltimore Orioles over the weekend.
Kyle Kendrick (0-4) was strong on the mound in defeat, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks over seven innings. He fanned four and retired 11 consecutive hitters following a walk to Danny Espinosa in the fourth, but was a victim of poor run support and left the game trailing.
Ty Wigginton knocked in the only run with a sacrifice fly, while Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco had two hits apiece for the Phils, who made a habit of coming up short in the clutch all night long by going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranding 10 on base.
Washington struck first in the second inning when Desmond squared-up a high sinker from Kendrick and launched it deep and over the wall in center field for his seventh homer of the season.
"I left a flat sinker over the middle and he (Desmond) put a good swing on it," Kendrick said.
The Phils put together a threat in the third with a two-out rally. Juan Pierre got things started by beating out an infield single, Polanco slapped a single into left and Victorino walked to load the bases against Gonzalez, but Hunter Pence grounded weakly to shortstop to end the inning.
Bryce Harper led off the Washington fourth with a solid single into left, stole second and, after Ryan Zimmerman struck out, Desmond came up with a clutch base hit past a diving Freddy Galvis to bring home Harper for a 2-0 advantage.
"That inning, I was falling behind to every hitter and I wanted to get ahead," Kendrick added.
The Phillies wasted another golden scoring chance in the sixth when Polanco walked and Victorino doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. Gonzalez bore down from there though, and got Pence to line out. Carlos Ruiz followed and sent a sharp grounder to first baseman Adam LaRoche, who threw home and cut down Polanco trying to score. The Nats lefty then got John Mayberry Jr. to fly out to right to keep Philadelphia off the board.
"He was pretty much unhittable, but his pitch count was way up there," Johnson remarked. "He gave me a strong six innings."
Philadelphia again wasted a scoring opportunity in the eighth. Facing Stammen, Polanco and Victorino ripped back-to-back singles to put two men on with one down, but Stamen remained unfazed and got Pence to pop out before inducing an inning-ending fielder's choice from Ruiz.
Rodriguez walked Mayberry on four pitches to start the ninth and after Galvis flied out, Mayberry moved to second on a wild pitch. Mike Fontenot slapped a single up the middle and moved to second on a another wild pitch, which spelled the end for an erratic Rodriguez.
Wigginton lofted a fly ball to right against Burnett to bring home Mayberry and Hector Luna walked, but with the tying run on second and two outs, Burnett got Polanco to line softly to Espinosa to end the game.
Washington kicked off a nine-game road trip on Monday in which they will also visit Atlanta and Miami...Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins missed the game due to the birth of his daughter...The Phillies fell to 1-6 in their last seven games against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park...Philadelphia is 3-9 in games started by an opposing left-hander this season...Washington was 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded just three.