WASHINGTON - Washington lefty starter Gio Gonzalez has been the victim of some shoddy offensive and defensive support this year.
But on Tuesday he rode an outfield assist from center fielder Denard Span on a play at the plate in the second and a five-run third inning, including a three-run homer from Adam LaRoche, to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-5.
Gonzalez picked up his first victory since May 5 as Jayson Werth reached base in all four at-bats (two hits, two walks) and LaRoche had three hits. Rookie Anthony Rendon had two more hits for the Nats.
"It was a good inning," Gonzalez said of the five-run third. "They definitely helped out a lot. It was nice to see the guys go out and hit and have some fun."
Gonzalez improved to 4-3 after seven no-decisions in his last eight starts. Arizona (41-35) had its four-game winning streak come to an end while the Nationals (38-38) withstood late rallies. "He was still throwing pretty good when I took him out," manager Davey Johnson said of his starter.
Span threw out a runner at the plate to keep the game scoreless in the second. "Denard made a big play," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez (two runs, nine hits allowed) was lifted with one out in the seventh in favor of reliever Drew Storen. Paul Goldschmidt (three hits) singled with two outs against Storen for his league-leading 66th RBI to make it 6-2. Hill scored on an error by Washington second baseman Rendon on a grounder by Miguel Montero as Arizona pulled to within 6-3. But Storen fanned Cody Ross to end the inning with two runners on base.
Tyler Clippard came on to pitch the eighth for the Nationals and gave up a leadoff homer to Martin Prado to make it 6-4.Pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi doubled and scored on an error in the eighth to give the Nationals a 7-4 cushion and reliever Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth to record his 20th save after allowing an RBI single to Miguel Montero.
"We dug ourselves a hole and we could not get out," said Arizona manager Kirk Gibson. "Our hitters made it a good game down to the end."
Arizona had cut the lead to 6-1 in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by Montero to score Aaron Hill, who had doubled. The Diamondbacks loaded the bases but Gonzalez got Gerardo Parra to ground out to end the threat.
Arizona starter Trevor Cahill (3-9) was lifted after five innings and replaced by rookie Zeke Spruill, who pitched a scoreless sixth to keep his ERA at 0.00.
"It was not a very good outing for him," Gibson said of Cahill. "He is not locating."
Said Cahill: "I couldn't put batters away. I left a change up up in the zone to LaRoche. He was able to put a good swing on it."
Washington took a 6-0 lead in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Ian Desmond against Cahill, who gave up six runs and eight hits in five innings. The Nationals built a 5-0 lead in the third on RBI singles by Span and Werth and a three-run homer to left by Adam LaRoche, who extended his home hitting streak to 19 games.
Gonzalez, winless in his previous eight starts despite an ERA of 2.26, allowed no runs and five hits (four singles) in the first five innings. The Nationals called up OF/1B Tyler Moore from Triple-A but he was not used - or needed. "He provides the punch you need off the bench," said Johnson.
NOTES: OF Bryce Harper (left knee bursitis) began a rehab assignment Tuesday at Class-A Potomac of the Carolina League in Woodbridge, Va. He batted second and played left field. In his first at-bat, Harper doubled off Myrtle Beach pitcher Alec Asher, the No. 20 prospect in the Texas system, according to mlb.com. Asher then picked Harper off second. Harper walked in his second at-bat in the third inning and was taken out of the game. ... The Diamondbacks sent LHP Joe Patterson to Triple-A Reno to make room for Hill. ... Arizona's Eric Hinske had a five-game suspension reduced to one game and he sat out Tuesday's game. He had been suspended for his role in the brawl with the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this month. ... Washington 3B Ryan Zimmerman was out of the starting lineup with a sore shoulder, Johnson said. Chad Tracy started at third for the Nationals. ... Hill hit .375 in six rehab games with Triple-A Reno and he had two hits in his return from the DL.