Davey Johnson congratulates Gio Gonzalez after start against the Reds (USA Today Sports)
WASHINGTON (AP) - Gio Gonzalez showed that he's better than his last two outings.
After giving up 12 runs in nine innings over those two starts, Gonzalez pitched a gem on Thursday night. The right-hander held Cincinnati's powerful lineup to one hit in eight innings and the Washington Nationals beat the Reds 8-1.
Denard Span and Danny Espinosa drove in three runs apiece, giving Gonzalez more than enough support. The 21-game winner from last season struck out seven and walked two.
By the time Joey Votto homered for Cincinnati, Gonzalez (2-1) had a 6-0 lead.
"Gio's a guy with an All-Star track record and a guy who could have won the Cy Young last year and it's not surprising," Votto said. "I looked up his numbers on the board and he hadn't had a very good season so far and I imagine he was about due. And tonight was one of those starts for him."
Washington had lost nine of 12 and their previous six home games. Cincinnati has lost six of its seven road games.
"It's been a long time since we've been shaking hands," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "That's more like what we are - good pitching and timely hitting."
Both had been missing from the Nats lately. Gonzalez helped them back on track by going right after the aggressive Cincinnati hitters.
"Attack the strike zone quick," Gonzalez said. "You don't want to give them a chance to fall behind on it and let them swing."
Said Johnson: "His ball moves a heck of a lot, and it's hard to sit on, but it's a lot easier to sit on if you see a lot of pitches in every at-bat."
The Nationals scored two runs in the bottom of the second against Bronson Arroyo (2-2). With one out, Ian Desmond singled. He scored on Espinosa's double. Kurt Suzuki singled. Gonzalez moved Suzuki to second with a bunt, and Espinosa scored on an infield single by Span.
Washington took a 6-0 lead in the third. Bryce Harper led off with his eighth home run of the year, the most any National has hit in April. Harper also doubled. He has 11 multi-hit games in the 22 Washington has played.
Following Harper's home run, Jayson Werth singled. Adam LaRoche, who had struck out six consecutive times, reached on a two-base throwing error by Votto at first. Werth scored on an infield out by Desmond. Espinosa hit his second home run of the year, a two-run shot, and Washington led by six.
Arroyo allowed six runs - five earned - in six innings. He walked one and struck out two.
Span's two-run triple in the eighth made it 8-1. Playing on his 26th birthday, Espinosa had been just 2 for 18 and entered the game batting .155.
"This is definitely more of what I expect from our team than the last three games," Espinosa said.
NOTES: Votto's home run was his fourth of the year. ... Reds OF Shin-Soo Choo walked in the ninth and has now reached base safely in his first 22 games this season. ... Nationals OF Roger Bernadina singled in the eighth inning. He had been 0 for 16. ... Washington C Wilson Ramos, who's on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, will likely go on a rehab assignment this weekend when Double-A Harrisburg plays at Bowie. ... Cincinnati LHP Sean Marshall, on the DL since April 10 with shoulder tendinitis, made his second rehab appearance Wednesday night for Triple A Louisville, pitching a scoreless inning against Gwinnett. He's been eligible to come off the disabled list since Tuesday and joined the Reds Thursday in Washington. "He's close. He's real close. He said he's feeling good," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. ... Cincinnati RHP Homer Bailey (1-1, 3.24) faces Washington RHP Jordan Zimmermann (3-1, 2.67) on Friday night.