Gio Gonzalez was nearly unhittable Thursday and got plenty of run support as the Washington Nationals rolled to an 8-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a four-game series.
Gonzalez (2-1) spun eight brilliant innings and only allowed one hit -- a home run off the bat of Joey Votto. The left-hander walked two and struck out seven to halt Washington's four-game losing streak.
"It was getting those first-pitch strikes that helped," said Gonzalez. "You don't want to give them a chance by falling behind and letting them get a swing at it. That's what happened with Votto and he made me pay for it."
Danny Espinosa celebrated his 26th birthday with a home run and three RBI, Denard Span went 3-for-5 and also knocked in three runs and Bryce Harper added two hits -- including a solo homer -- in the victory.
The Reds were coming off a successful 8-2 homestand, but began their 10- game road trip on the wrong foot. Their only run came when Votto took a 2-1 pitch the other way and barely cleared the left-field wall in the fourth.
By that time the Nationals had already built a 6-0 lead against Bronson Arroyo, this after they totaled four runs during their recent slide.
Espinosa got the outburst started in the second inning, first doubling in Ian Desmond and later crossing the plate when Span beat out a bloop single to short.
Harper led off the third with a laser to straightaway center, and the Nationals caught a break two batters later when Votto tried turning a double play, only to have his throw to second hit a sliding Jayson Werth in the back. The error left runners on second and third, and Desmond plated a run with a groundout. Espinosa followed with a home run that landed in the Nationals' bullpen beyond the right-field wall for a 6-0 lead.
Arroyo (2-1) lasted six innings and was charged with six runs -- five earned -- on nine hits. Span tripled in a pair against Logan Ondrusek in the eighth to account for the final score.
"They've got a really good hitting lineup and they made me pay when I made some mistakes," said Arroyo. "As good as Gio threw today, it's tough when you give up all those runs."
With 112 pitches on his arm, Gonzalez was pulled in the ninth, with Rafael Soriano closing out the win.
Gonzalez had given up 12 runs over his previous two starts ... Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo went 0-for-3 but worked a walk. He has reached base safely in all 22 of his games played this season ... The Reds took two of three from the Nationals in Cincinnati earlier this month.