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Gio Gonzalez’s down year part of team’s slide

August 7, 2018

Gio Gonzalez lived in Arlington early on in his Nationals career and now lives with his family in Bethesda, where his wife was raised. And after nearly seven full seasons in the nation’s capital, the fun-loving Gonzalez feels he has become part of the sports landscape here.

The Nationals have a huge fan following in Bethesda, the 32-year-old pitcher said while sitting at his locker before a recent home game. “They are super nice. That is what I love about the fans out there; they are super polite. They are not over the top. They treat you like a neighbor; they come by and say hello. That is all I could ever ask for.”

But Gonzalez also realizes his time in Washington could end after this year when he becomes a free agent.

It’s a possibility he can’t dwell on, he says, when he takes the mound.

“I want to go out there and pitch as great as I can for this organization and represent them the right way. I want to constantly give them every bit of energy I can,” he said.

Acquired from the Oakland A’s before the 2012 season, Gonzalez went 21-8 in his first season with the Nationals, and he has won at least 10 games with at least 27 starts every season since as one of the most durable lefties in the majors.

Last year he was 15-9 with a 2.96 ERA in 32 starts and finished sixth in the Cy Young voting in the National League.

This season, he’s slipped to 6-8 with an ERA of 4.04.

“We pump him up,” manager Dave Martinez said after Gonzalez started Saturday’s 7-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

“He pitched out of a jam right out of the first inning and I thought that was great. The wheels could have fallen apart right there. Then the next inning, he threw a change-up to (Phillip) Ervin and he hit it pretty good. Three-run homer.”

Gonzalez’s downturn coincides with the struggles of the team.

“You are going to have good games and you are going to have some games where you battle. I have been as reliable as I can possibly be,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he received some valuable tips from former Nationals reliever Brandon Kintzler, who was traded to the Chicago Cubs for a minor league pitcher on July 31. The next day the Nationals designated reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment and Sunday he was traded to Oakland after throwing down his glove after giving up a homer July 31 in the ninth inning of a 24-5 win over the Mets.

“They were really humble guys in the clubhouse; veteran guys with a lot of knowledge,” Gonzalez said. “They helped us out throughout the year.

“What happened happened. It is over with. When they were here they were great.”

Despite rough patches, Gonzalez feels the Nationals can make a playoff push.

“Why not? It has happened before in baseball. You can’t count it out,” he said. “I think we are a team that can do something extraordinary like that. I think we are headed in the right direction. We are turning the tide now” with eight wins in 11 games.

Win or lose Gonzalez feels support from fans in his neighborhood.

“I love how they kind of understand I am one of theirs. I love that feeling. I never want to lose that feeling with this organization,” he said.

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