For the first time in seven years, Roy Halladay isn't a contender.
Gonzalez looks to become the first 17-game winner in the majors and the franchise's first in 15 years as he takes the mound opposite Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night.
Gonzalez (16-6, 3.23 ERA) is tied for the most wins in baseball with Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto , Tampa Bay's David Price and Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels . The victory total tied his personal best set with Oakland last year and is the most by a member of the Nationals (77-48) since they moved from Montreal in 2005.
"It means a lot," Gonzalez said. "This is a thank you to the bullpen, a thank you to the team, but we're not done yet."
Another win would make him the first in team history to reach 17 since Pedro Martinez went 17-8 with a 1.90 ERA to win the Cy Young with the Expos in 1997. Gonzalez is 10-2 in 14 games away from home, the most road wins in the NL.
The left-hander's success is a major reason Washington owns the best record in baseball and is atop the NL East by six games over Atlanta, seemingly headed for the postseason for the first time since 1981.
He's also emerging as a contender for the Cy Young , and that's familiar territory for Halladay, who won it in 2003 with Toronto and 2010 with the Phillies before finishing second to the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw last year.
Halladay (7-7, 3.95) hasn't resembled that lofty status this year, but he's won three of his last four starts with a 2.79 ERA. He wasn't very sharp Monday, surrendering five runs and 10 hits in seven innings of a 12-5 win over the Reds.
Halladay is 11-2 with a 2.53 ERA in 16 starts against the Nationals franchise, but one of those defeats came at home May 22, when he allowed five runs in six innings.
Gonzalez has dominated the Phillies (59-67) in two starts this year, winning both behind a 0.69 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 13 innings. He fanned nine while yielding three hits in six shutout innings of a 2-1 win at Philadelphia on May 21.
Gonzalez enters this visit with a 2.53 ERA while winning three starts in a row, including 5-2 over New York on Sunday. He battled through 110 pitches in 5 2-3 innings, allowing one run and seven hits.
The Nationals will try to show some improvement offensively after losing 4-2 in the opener of this three-game set Friday and 5-1 to the Braves two days earlier. Washington hasn't dropped three in a row since July 19-21.
It seems they'll be without outfielder Michael Morse , who left in the first inning Friday after being hit in the hand by a pitch. X-rays were negative, but manager Davey Johnson said Morse probably would miss "a few days."
"It's a bad bruise," Johnson said. "The good news is it's not broken."
Jimmy Rollins will try to give the Phillies a spark at the plate again after getting two hits and driving in a pair of runs Friday. He has five hits and as many RBIs in the past four games.
|August 24, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Strained right hamstring|
|August 24, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hand contusion|
|August 13, 2012||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Sore right ankle|
|August 05, 2012||Mark DeRosa||15-Day DL||Left abdominal strain|
|August 01, 2012||Henry Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Strained lower back|
|July 29, 2012||Adam LaRoche||Day-to-Day||Left game - Back tightness|
|August 24, 2012||Brian Schneider||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|August 13, 2012||Nate Schierholtz||15-Day DL||Fractured right big toe|
|August 03, 2012||Carlos Ruiz||15-Day DL||Plantar fasciitis, left foot|
|July 23, 2012||Placido Polanco||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|July 23, 2012||Placido Polanco||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|July 09, 2012||Raul Valdes||15-Day DL||Strained right hip|
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Roy Halladay and the Phillies seem to have their groove back.
Halladay outpitched Gio Gonzalez with seven solid innings and John Mayberry Jr. homered to lead Philadelphia to a 4-2 victory over the Washington Nationals on Saturday night.
"We've got a little step in our get-a-long," manager Charlie Manuel said after the Phillies' second straight victory over the NL-East leading Nationals.
Halladay (8-7) allowed two runs and seven hits, struck out six and walked one. The right-hander, who missed 42 games with a strained muscle, is 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA in his last five starts.
"I didn't have to force as much today," Halladay said. "From fifth inning on, it's probably the most consistent it's been in a while. I felt pretty good today. I felt like I wasn't laboring as much and that makes a difference."
The two-time Cy Young Award winner improved to 12-2 in 17 career starts against the Nationals franchise, and Philadelphia won for the sixth time in the last eight games overall.
"It feels good to play well," Halladay said. "We've done that at times this year. We want to get back to playing the way people have come to expect of the Phillies."
Steve Lombardozzi drove in both runs for Washington, which lost its third straight.
"Our offense is struggling a little with (injured players) out, but you've got to give credit to their pitching," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, whose club played without Ian Desmond (hamstring) and Michael Morse (hand).
After Antonio Bastardo struck out the side in the eighth, Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 29th save in 32 chances. The three Phillies pitchers combined for 11 strikeouts.
The five-time defending NL East champion Phillies are seven games under .500.
"Obviously you want to play great baseball all year long," second baseman Chase Utley said. "Right now we're playing good baseball, but there's still room for improvement."
Mayberry hit a leadoff drive in the sixth inning to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. It was just the eighth homer allowed this season by Gonzalez, who had yielded one in his last six starts.
"It was good hitting, a huge hit for us," Manuel said.
Mayberry's sacrifice fly in the eighth scored Utley, who stole second and third after being hit by a pitch.
Gonzalez (16-7), a former Phillies farmhand who was trying to become the first 17-game winner in the majors, lasted six innings and gave up five hits while striking out seven and walking two. Mayberry's homer was the only hit allowed by Gonzalez after the second.
"I tried to be too careful in the first inning," Gonzalez said. "I got more aggressive."
The left-hander had baffled the Phillies in two previous starts this season, going 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13 innings. But the Phillies jumped on Gonzalez right away this time.
"Gio's tough," Utley said. "There are not a lot of lefties that have his velocity. He's definitely commanding the ball a lot better than he has in the past and his numbers show that. You try to get strikes in the strike zone and try not to miss them. We scored some early runs, which is always nice for the starting pitcher."
Philadelphia grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first on RBI singles by Utley and Mayberry. Gonzalez needed 31 pitches to get through the opening frame.
"Gio had a little trouble early but then he settled down," Johnson said.
The Nationals tied it in the fifth inning on Lombardozzi's two-out, two-run single to center. Washington loaded the bases with one out on three straight singles, but had Gonzalez batting. After two failed bunt attempts, Gonzalez grounded sharply to Utley at second. Instead of trying for the double play, Utley came home to get the lead runner.
Lombardozzi then singled to center to score Danny Espinosa and Kurt Suzuki , who just beat the throw by getting his hand on the plate and under the tag of catcher Erik Kratz .
Morse did not play after leaving Friday night's game with a bruised right hand after he was hit by a Kyle Kendrick pitch in the first inning. Desmond also missed his second straight game due to a right hamstring strain.
NOTES: Phillies OF Domonic Brown was out of the starting lineup due to right knee soreness. It was the first time Brown did not start since being recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on July 31. Brown hit for Halladay in the seventh inning and struck out. . Philadelphia LHP Cliff Lee (2-7, 3.78 ERA) is scheduled to face RHP Jordan Zimmermann (9-7, 2.54 ERA) in Sunday's series finale.