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08/29/2008 3:03 PM ET
Nationals a win away from GCL title
Gonzalez, bullpen propel Nats to victory over Phils in Game 1
Esmailyn Gonzalez is now 4-for-8 with five RBIs in two playoff games with the Nationals. (Jerry Hale/


The Nationals used strong pitching and timely hitting to beat the Phillies, 5-1, in Game 1 of the Gulf Coast League Finals on Friday afternoon.

After starter Josh Smoker surrendered a run in 1 2/3 innings, Christopher Kelley came on in relief to keep the Phillies off the board for the next 6 2/3 frames, earning the win and putting the Nationals in a position to claim the GCL championship with a victory Saturday.

Once again leading the Nationals' offense was Esmailyn Gonzalez, the GCL batting champion. Gonzalez, who's now 4-for-8 with five RBIs in two postseason games, drove in two runs with a double in the second inning. Johnathan Ramirez also continued his impressive professional debut with the Nationals, registering his second straight two-hit game, including his first career home run.

Leandro Castro, whose bat led the Phillies in Thursday's semifinal game, went 2-for-4 in the losing cause.

The Phillies will host the Nationals on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET in Game 2 of the best-of-3 championship series.

Kristen Zimmerman is an editor for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.