Gio Gonzalez has been phenomenal in his first season in Washington, earning an All-Star selection while helping the Nationals to the top of the NL East.
Gonzalez looks to win his fifth straight start Saturday night in Miami, where Buehrle tries to help the Marlins avoid a four-game losing streak and win his fourth consecutive start.
The Nationals (50-34) opened the second half of the season with Friday's 5-1 win over the Marlins (41-45) for their sixth victory in eight games. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche looked particularly refreshed after the break, with Zimmerman going 3 for 4 with a two-run homer and LaRoche finishing 3 for 4 with two runs."Getting the rest kind of helped everyone," said Zimmerman, who has been dealing with a bothersome right shoulder and was 3 for 16 heading into the break.
With a win Saturday, the Nationals would move 17 games over .500 for the first time since July 9, 2005. They seem to have a good shot at reaching that high-water mark - they're 14-3 in Gonzalez's starts.
Obtained in an offseason trade with Oakland, Gonzalez (12-3, 2.92 ERA) has pitched better than most expected. He is tied with the New York Mets ' R.A. Dickey for the major league lead in victories and his 10.45 strikeouts per nine innings are third-best in baseball. The left-hander made his second All-Star appearance Tuesday, throwing 11 pitches in a 1-2-3 third inning in the NL's 8-0 win."He's certainly been stingy giving up runs and hits here," Davey Johnson said after Gonzalez allowed one run and three hits in six innings in a 4-1 win over Colorado on July 7.
Gonzalez's last win marked his fourth in as many starts, and he won five in a row May 5-27.
Buehrle (8-8, 3.25), who signed as a free agent with Miami in December after spending the first 12 seasons of his career with the Chicago White Sox, is trying to win four consecutive starts for the first time since reeling off five in a row in the spring of 2009. His current run comes on the heels of a four-start losing streak in which he posted a 5.48 ERA. The lefty had a 0.83 ERA in his final three games before the break.
His last outing may have been his best in a Marlins uniform, as he scattered six hits and struck out a season-high eight without issuing a walk in 7 2-3 innings of a 4-0 win over Milwaukee on July 5.
While Buehrle appears on track, Miami's biggest concern is an offense that has plated seven runs while batting .202 during a three-game skid. Not helping matters is the Marlins - 10 games back of Washington - are expected to be without Giancarlo Stanton (right knee surgery) for the foreseeable future after placing him on the 15-day disabled list Friday."Why wouldn't we be optimistic?" ' catcher John Buck said. "We've got a good club. We haven't played well. We've underachieved. Do we make it hard on ourselves? Yes, but we've got a good enough team."
The Marlins could be in line for another tough game against Gonzalez, who had perhaps the best start of his career against the Marlins on June 28, 2011, permitting one hit while striking out nine over eight innings in a 1-0 win.
This will be Buehrle's first start against the Washington franchise since being tagged for seven runs in a loss in Montreal in 2004.
|July 01, 2012||Chien-Ming Wang||15-Day DL||Strained right hip|
|June 30, 2012||Stephen Strasburg||Day-to-Day||Left game - heat exhaustion|
|June 24, 2012||Xavier Nady||15-Day DL||Right wrist tendinitis|
|June 17, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Oblique soreness|
|June 11, 2012||Roger Bernadina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right hamstring|
|June 10, 2012||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Sore back|
|July 08, 2012||Hanley Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Right finger laceration|
|July 07, 2012||Giancarlo Stanton||15-Day DL||Arthroscopic right knee surgery|
|July 06, 2012||Giancarlo Stanton||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|June 30, 2012||Edward Mujica||15-Day DL||Fractured right pinkie toe|
|June 16, 2012||Sandy Rosario||15-Day DL||Strained right quad|
|May 23, 2012||Austin Kearns||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
MIAMI (AP) -- Mark Buehrle outdueled All-Star Gio Gonzalez and pitched the Miami Marlins to a much-needed win over the NL East leaders.
Buehrle (9-8) allowed one run in seven innings as the Marlins beat the Nationals 2-1 Saturday night, ending a three-game losing streak.
"It was a must-win game against the team we are chasing," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said.
After beating the Nationals and Gio Gonzalez (12-4), the Marlins are nine games out of first place - with Atlanta and New York in between.
"Going up against this team and Gio with the way he's been throwing the ball all year, you've got to be on top of your game," Buehrle said.
Buehrle won his fourth consecutive start by allowing six hits, striking out seven and walking two.
"I'm still scratching my own head to try to figure out what I'm doing striking all these guys out because it's a lot of guys," Buehrle said. "I try to shoot for 100 every year just to get to triple digits, but it seems like I'm getting there faster than I usually do."
Carlos Lee and John Buck drove in the runs for Miami and Steve Cishek pitched the final 1 2-3 innings to earn his second save, and first since May 25 against San Francisco. It was the first save opportunity for the Marlins after manager Ozzie Guillen announced Heath Bell had been removed from the closer role.
Cishek allowed a two-out single to Roger Bernadina in the ninth and Bernadina stole second, but Jesus Flores struck out to end the game.
"I got ahead with two strikes and I left him a pitch in the middle that he fouled off," Cishek said. "I didn't want to make that mistake again. It would have been crucial. I really tried to get that slider out there and he chased it."
Gonzalez, a Hialeah native, took the loss in his first game in Miami. Gonzalez pitched six innings and allowed two runs. He struck out nine.
"It was great being in front of family and friends," Gonzalez said. "My parents were right behind home plate. The excitement was one of those things you dream about."
"He pitched a jewel in his hometown," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
Gonzalez retired the first nine batters - five on strikeouts - before Jose Reyes singled up the middle to lead off the fourth. Omar Infante 's sacrifice bunt advanced Reyes to second and the recently acquired Lee drove in Reyes with a base hit to right-center field. It was Lee's first RBI as a Marlin in six games.
"Old fashioned National League ball - they bunt the guy over and then their guys delivered a hit," Johnson said. "That's what wins ballgames."
The Nationals tied it at 1 thanks to some fortune on the basepaths. Buehrle got Ian Desmond leaning off first base and when his pickoff throw went to Lee, Desmond was on his way down to second. Lee's throw hit Desmond in the back and he reached safely.
Two batters later Flores hit a bloop single to score Desmond. Ryan Zimmerman eventually came to bat with the bases loaded, but Buehrle struck him out swinging to get out of the jam.
Buck's RBI single in the fifth gave the Marlins a 2-1 lead.
Buehrle got out of another jam in the seventh as he struck out Roger Espinosa to leave a runner stranded at third.
NOTES: Flores went 2 for 3 after hitting a two-run single on Friday. He had been hitless in his final 16 at-bats before the All-Star break. ... Emilio Bonifacio stole second base with a head-first slide in the seventh inning, his first steal attempt since being caught stealing on May 18 when he damaged a ligament on a similar slide causing him to miss 46 games. ... Prior to the game, former Marlins Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Conine re-enacted Conine's memorable throw to Rodriguez at home plate for the final out of the 2003 NL Division Series against the Giants. The Marlins went on to win their second World Series that year. ... Washington RHP Stephen Strasburg (9-4, 2.82 ERA) will start Sunday against RHP Ricky Nolasco (8-6, 4.35 ERA). Strasburg will try to snap a three-game losing streak.