Washington Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez came within one inning away from a no-hitter on Monday night against the Miami Marlins. On an emotional night, Gonzalez weathered through a perfect storm of events.
Gonzalez made the start in his hometown of Miami in front of family and friends, including his beloved brother. He stifled a heavy-hitting Marlins’ lineup in the ballpark in which his buddy Jose Fernandez blossomed into a star. A close friend of Gonzalez, Fernandez would have turned 25 years of age Monday had not been for an unfortunate boat accident that claimed his life last September.
Playing in his home city against his late buddy’s former team in his stadium and on his birthday, the emotions were sky high. And still Gonzalez had to calm another mental element. His wife, Lea, was back in D.C. pregnant and due any day now with their second child.
So when Dee Gordon knocked a single to center field in the ninth inning, every heart-pounding moment, every tensed pitch, every held breath on contact, all of it came to a head. Gonzalez had threw eight innings allowing one hit while walking three and striking out five.
When Nationals manager Dusty Baker came out to the mound for the hook, ending Gonzalez’s night, he was met with a standing ovation from the patrons inside Marlins Park. A glance to the Marlins dugout and he was greeted by a cheerful and clapping opponent, who shared the emotional rollercoaster with him. Gonzalez pumped his glove and tipped his hat to the showered love from his opponents and their fans.
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“It was tough,” Gonzalez told reporters per Fox Sports Florida. “I mean, today, it was too much on my mind.”
As Sean Doolittle finished off the tensed ninth inning overcoming a runner on first base with no out to clinch the Nationals’ 1-0 win, it was a full circle night. Gonzalez improved on his best season since 2012 rolling his record to 9-5 and lowering his ERA to a career-best 2.66.
“I’ll be honest with you: It was just like, ‘All right, that’s it. I’m exhausted,’” Gonzalez added. “‘Let’s go. Go get the man, close this game out and let’s go. I want to go home.’”
It was emotional. It was a perfect storm. And to thank all of it may have not been had nature taken course and his wife went into labor.
“She texted me saying: ‘You almost put me in labor today!’” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez joked that she has just about everyone in the organization’s phone number, including teammates. And at any call or text, he would be heading back to D.C. to be with her during the delivery. That included if he had to leave, giving up a chance at the no-hitter.
“Absolutely. Put that ball there. I would love to see my – boy or girl, we don’t know right now – it’s one of those things where I will always, I don’t care what situation I’m in, I will always be there to see my kids,” Gonzalez told reporters.
For Gonzalez July 31, 2017 will be an embedded memory for him. Certain a sigh of relief came over him as the game ended. Gonzalez is known for being mentally reckless on the mound. Yet, on a night with so much emotion and so much to think and worry about, he weathered through and pitched possibly the game of his career. Crazy how baseball works.