MILWAUKEE -- The Nationals widened their lead in the National League East on Monday night, with Adam LaRoche's homer proving to be the difference as the Nationals blanked the Brewers, 3-0, at Miller Park.
With the second-place Braves idle, Washington is now two games ahead in the NL East. It looked like it was going to be one of those games where the Nationals were going to squander opportunities. In the second inning, for example, they had the bases loaded with no outs but didn't score. Both Danny Espinosa and Jose Lobaton struck out, and left-hander Gio Gonzalez grounded out to end the threat.
The frustration boiled over into the dugout a few minutes later, as manager Matt Williams was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. It marked the first time Williams was tossed from a game as a manager.
After Espinosa was called out looking, Williams argued that the called third strike was outside. Shortly after the half-inning ended, plate umpire Mark Wegner tossed Williams. Williams came out to argue with Wegner for several minutes before the skipper went back into the clubhouse for the night.
"I wanted to have a conversation, but [Wegner] didn't want to. It's part of the game. We had an opportunity there. It didn't happen for us," Williams said. "It's his discretion to do that if he wants to."
Asked how it felt to have his first ejection in the books, Williams replied, "I don't know. We won the game. That's all that matters."
Bench coach Randy Knorr managed the rest of the game. He didn't see what happened to Williams. He was looking at video to see if Wegner made the right call on Espinosa.
"I had [to watch the ejection] on tape," Knorr said.
But the Nationals would not squander their opportunities in the third inning against right-hander Matt Garza. After Anthony Rendon led off with a walk and Jayson Werth singled to right, LaRoche belted a 3-2 slider over the center-field fence to give Washington the three-run lead.
"I saw about all of his pitches," LaRoche said. "He just left the slider over the plate in that spot. You are really trying to hit something hard and hit something in the air. It just so happens it went out of the park. One of the few mistakes he made."
Gonzalez, who was making his second start since coming off the disabled list, threw 114 pitches over six innings and allowed three hits. He caught the Brewers off guard. They were looking for either the fastball or curve, but Gonzalez surprised them with his changeup. He relied heavily on the pitch Monday.
"He was different the last couple years," Carlos Gomez said. "He was working with changeups. We didn't expect him to be working with changeups. It was a really good pitch for him. He threw the ball well, so we have to give the credit.
"Every at-bat, they threw me changeups. I didn't expect to see [more] than maybe one. Not like continually, like they've been doing. It's part of the game. They made the adjustment and came today strong, making big pitches. They got us today. Good for Washington.
The Brewers had their chances to score against Gonzalez in the third inning. They, too, had a bases-loaded opportunity, but Gomez flied out to left fielder Ryan Zimmerman to end the threat.
While Gonzalez was on the disabled list, the pitching staff established itself as one of the best in baseball. He wants to prove to everybody he wants to be a big part of the rotation. The start against the Brewers was a step in the right direction.
"It was one of those nights where I needed to bounce back," Gonzalez said. "I was just proud to see these guys compete and give me a chance to be part of this rotation. Being the odd man out right now, you want to be 100 percent at their level. Seeing the way these guys are throwing the ball, you want to make sure you don't fall behind."
After Gonzalez left the game, relievers Aaron Barrett, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard blanked Milwaukee the rest of the way with Clippard fanning the side for his first save of the season.
"I haven't done it in a while, so it was fun to get out there to get that experience again," Clippard said. "It's not too much different in how I'm feeling when I'm out there. I had the adrenaline after it was over."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.