The Associated Press
MIAMI–Gio Gonzalez took the mound last night filled with emotion while thinking of his extremely pregnant wife and his late friend, Jose Fernandez.
Soon he was thinking about a no-hitter, too.
The Washington Nationals’ left-hander held the Miami Marlins hitless until the ninth inning, when Dee Gordon led off with a clean single.
Sean Doolittle then got the final three outs for a 1-0 victory.
Gonzalez’s wife is back in Washington and expected to deliver their second child at any time.
To compound his emotions, before the game he met Fernandez’s family, visiting Marlins Park for the first time since the late ace–an off-season fishing buddy of Gonzalez’s–died in a boat crash last September.
Yesterday would have been Fernandez’s 25th birthday.
“It was a heavy dose of a lot of emotion today,” said Gonzalez, a native of nearby Hialeah.
“I tried to calm it down,” he noted. “I didn’t want to think about it too much.”
Gonzalez (9-5) succeeded–delivering one of the best performances of his 10-year career.
He walked three, hit a batter, struck out five, and retired 14 in a row during one stretch.
Gonzalez warmed up before the game using a ball bearing Fernandez’s number and initials.
But once he took the mound, his emotions didn’t show.
“He was really focused and very calm–the best I’ve seen him,” said manager Dusty Baker.
But he tired in the ninth. Gordon singled by sending a soft liner the opposite way to left-centre field on a 1-1 pitch–the 106th pitch Gonzalez threw.
The weary lefty’s attention immediately turned to Doolittle warming up.
“It was like, ‘All right, I’m exhausted, let’s go get the man and close this game out. I want to go home now,'” Gonzalez recalled.
“If it [the no-hitter] would have happened, it would have been beautiful,” he added.
“It didn’t happen but we got the win. That’s the most important thing.”
Doolittle got his fourth save since being acquired from Oakland on July 16.
Jose Urena (9-5) matched zeros with Gonzalez until the sixth, when Bryce Harper’s RBI single put the Nationals ahead.
Urena allowed just three hits in eight innings.
Elsewhere in the NL, Philadelphia topped Atlanta 7-6.
Oakland beat San Francisco 8-5 in interleague action.