Gio Gonzalez ducked his head, putting his chin to his chest and his eyes to the pitcher's mound dirt. No matter how often he had envisioned his debut start for the Nationals, it surely had never unfolded in his mind like this: the game not half over, the scoreboard chocked with crooked numbers, his manager trudging to the middle of the diamond to end his day.

In his first start with the Nationals, a 7-4 comeback win over the Cubs, Gonzalez could not get out of the fourth inning. He flashed the pitching arsenal that convinced the Nationals to ship four prospects to the Oakland Athletics to acquire him, striking out five and twirling boomerang curveballs. But he also allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks in 32 / 3 innings, laboring to throw 74 pitches.

In his one at-bat, his first with a National League team, Gonzalez smoked a line drive to center that forced Marlon Byrd to a make a running, over-the-shoulder stab.

"I think Gio had his hitting shoes on, not his pitching shoes today," Johnson said. "But he's going to be fine."