LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gio Gonzalez picked a good time to earn his first victory for Washington in the second half, coming against a talented Dodgers lineup the Nationals could see in the postseason.
Backed by four homers, including two from Denard Span, Gonzalez snapped his five-game skid with a 6-4 victory on Monday night in a matchup of division leaders.
Gonzalez (7-9) allowed three runs and three hits in six-plus innings. The left-hander hadn’t won since beating the Cubs on July 5. He had a 4.38 ERA in his previous nine games.
He also doubled and scored on Anthony Rendon’s double off Brandon League in the seventh.
“My velocity was where I wanted it to be,” Gonzalez said. “I was attacking the strike zone, fastball, curveball, changeup, it was all working. Especially in a game like this with that lineup, it’s definitely not easy.”
The East-leading Nationals (78-58) own the NL’s best record while the Dodgers (77-61) are atop the West and close behind in pursuit of the top seed, despite losing for the third time in four games.
“We need to win games,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Rafael Soriano pitched a shaky ninth to earn his 31st save. He yielded an RBI single to Juan Uribe, after the ball skipped by the mound and caromed off second base, allowing Yasiel Puig to score.
The Dodgers then had runners on the corners with two outs but Joc Pederson took a called third strike in his major league debut.
Roberto Hernandez (2-2) gave up five runs and five hits – including a career-high four homers – in 4 1-3 innings. The right-hander came in 2-0 against the Nationals, having allowed just an unearned run in 15 1-3 innings in two starts against them while pitching for Philadelphia before being acquired by the Dodgers last month.
“It surprised me a lot,” Hernandez said through a translator. “I didn’t have command of my pitches from the first inning. It was just a matter of things not working for me. It wasn’t that I had lost confidence.”
The Nationals ended August with 40 homers, second-best in the major leagues behind Baltimore. They picked up where they left off to start the final month of the regular season, with Jayson Werth and Asdrubal Cabrera adding solo shots.
Span’s second homer, a two-run shot on the first pitch he faced in the fifth, extended Washington’s lead to 5-2. That chased Hernandez, who had walked Cabrera to start the inning before striking out Gonzalez.
“I really can’t explain it, other than home runs come in bulk and I’ve been seeing the ball pretty good,” Span said.
Werth hit his 16th homer with two outs in the first. The Dodgers then got a two-out homer in the bottom half from Matt Kemp to take a 2-1 lead.
Asdrubal Cabrera tied it at 2 with a leadoff drive in the third. One batter later, Span hit his first homer of the game.
It was Span’s second career multihomer game. His first came on Sept. 13, 2008. His three RBIs were a season high. He is batting .360 in 43 games since the All-Star break.
The outfielder was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and the two-run homer, his 17th of the season. He has 10 RBIs in his last nine games, batting .361 since Aug. 22. His 174 career homers are three behind Mike Piazza for fourth on the Dodgers’ career list.
Nationals: 1B Adam LaRoche left in the fifth after straining his lower back during an at-bat. He is day to day. … OF Steven Souza Jr. (left shoulder) returned from rehab and was reinstated to the active roster. He was named International League MVP last week, having led the league in nearly every offensive category.
Dodgers: RHP Chris Perez (bone spurs, right ankle) was reinstated from the 15-day DL after making five rehab appearances with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. INF Carlos Triunfel was designated for assignment.
Nationals: With rosters expanding Monday, Washington recalled RHP Aaron Barrett, LHP Xavier Cedeno, C Sandy Leon, INF-OF Tyler Moore and RHP Blake Treinen from Triple-A Syracuse.
Dodgers: Los Angeles recalled C Tim Federowicz, RHP Yimi Garcia, and INF-OF Alex Guerrero from Triple-A Albuquerque and selected the contract of OF Pederson from Albuquerque. Guerrero struck out as a pinch hitter and Garcia made his major league debut in the eighth, allowing one hit and striking out two in two scoreless innings.
Nationals: RHP Doug Fister (12-5, 2.55 ERA) is 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in his last three starts.
Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw (16-3, 1.73) starts. Among NL pitchers with at least 15 decisions, Kershaw and Fister (.706) rank first and second in winning percentage.