Adam Wainwright 's recent success may be even more important to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Wainwright looks to extend the longest winning streak of his career when he starts opposite Gonzalez on Friday night in the nation's capital.
Gonzalez (16-7, 3.28 ERA) is among the contenders for the NL Cy Young Award, ranking among the league leaders in wins and strikeouts (168) while yielding just eight homers.
The left-hander, who has already matched his career high in victories from last year with Oakland, is part of a Nationals rotation that leads the NL with a 3.27 ERA and a .236 opponents' average.
Edwin Jackson built on that success in the opener of this four-game series Thursday, allowing an unearned run and four hits with 10 strikeouts in eight innings as the Nationals (79-51) cruised to an 8-1 victory.
Washington's lead atop the East is 5 1/2 games over second-place Atlanta.
Wainwright (13-10, 3.63) is having an impact in the wild-card race for the Cardinals (71-60), whose lead for the second spot is down to a half-game over Pittsburgh.
The right-hander will try to continue his recent dominance to provide some breathing room. He's 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last seven starts, emerging victorious in each of his last five.
He allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings Sunday in an 8-2 win at Cincinnati. That performance came five days after he matched his carer high with 12 strikeouts in a five-hit shutout of Houston.
"I wanted to take my team further in the game than that, but I get it," Wainwright said Sunday. "I had a couple of games in a row that I threw a lot of pitches."
He's 3-2 with a 2.83 ERA in eight games - six starts - against the Nationals, but hasn't faced them since a loss at Washington on Aug. 29, 2010.
St. Louis may need another strong performance from Wainwright since the team has been outscored 22-1 while hitting .149 during a three-game losing streak.
"Nothing we can put our finger on," manager Mike Matheny said. "No explanation at this point."
To make matters, St. Louis might be without its starting shortstop for the rest of the season. Rafael Furcal suffered a strained right elbow while making a pair of throws in the sixth inning Thursday, and he'll undergo an MRI on Friday.
Furcal described hearing a "pop" in the elbow, and the team fears he might have damaged his ulnar collateral ligament.
"It's very concerning," outfielder Matt Holliday told the team's official website. "He's one of the best shortstops defensively in the league. Even when he doesn't swing the bat well, he brings a lot to the team."
With the offense struggling, the Cardinals really use some production from Holliday and Allen Craig , who are a combined 1 for 23 during the skid.
Holliday is batting .424 over his last nine meetings with Washington, but Craig has fanned five times while going hitless in nine at-bats in four career matchups.
They'll get their first look at Gonzalez, who is trying to rebound from Saturday's 4-2 loss at Philadelphia. He allowed three runs - two in the first - with seven strikeouts in six innings after winning each of his previous three outings with a 2.53 ERA.
Three of Bryce Harper 's four hits in the past two games have gone for homers. The rookie has a .314 average with four homers and nine RBIs in his past nine home games.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 30, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Left game - right elbow strain|
|August 28, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained upper back|
|August 25, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left wrist contusion|
|August 25, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Sprained ankle|
|August 21, 2012||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Right hand injury|
|August 16, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Back stiffness|
|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|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Gio Gonzalez needed to be spot on with his pitches Friday night. No, not because he was facing the St. Louis Cardinals. His mother was sitting right behind home plate.
Gonzalez was pretty close to perfect with his No. 1 fan always in view, earning his 17th win with his first career shutout as the Washington Nationals routed the St. Louis Cardinals 10-0.
"Imagine seeing (Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki 's) face, then the umpire then my mom," said Gonzalez, who allowed five hits. "It was like, `Uh oh, can't disappoint you ma.'
"You can hear her on every at-bat, `swing, do this,' and I'm like someone has to keep her quiet over there," Gonzalez said, joyful. "One of those kind of things when you have your whole family here you want to step it up and enjoy it."
Adam LaRoche , Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each drove in two runs and the Nationals sent 10 batters to the plate during a four-run third inning against Wainwright (13-11), who entered 5-0 in August.
Perfect through three innings, Gonzalez (17-7) held the suddenly anemic St. Louis lineup hitless through four innings. He finished with eight strikeouts and walked three during his 119-pitch outing en route to his fourth win in five starts.
The left-hander tied Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto and New York Mets starter R.A. Dickey for the major league lead in wins.
The 26-year-old Gonzalez's father watched his son's third complete game from another location in the stadium.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson had a 120-pitch count on Gonzalez.
"He took me right to the edge," Johnson said. "I might have let him go over my predetermined number otherwise I'd have had Gio hassling me all week," Johnson said. "What a great effort."
Admittedly running on fumes late, Gonzalez received a pick me up with the remaining crowd hollering "Let's go Gio!" as he strode to the mound in the ninth. Two runners reached, the punchless Cardinals came up empty, finishing 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
"It felt like it was a boost of energy, like having a Red Bull there in ninth," Gonzalez said.
Zimmerman smacked a two-run homer in the eighth inning and Jayson Werth had three hits for the NL East-leading Nationals. Since scoring six runs during a recent five-game losing streak, the Nationals have outscored their opponents 26-5 in three straight win, two coming against the slumping Cardinals.
St. Louis, the National League leaders in batting average and runs scored, has tallied only one run during their four-game losing streak while allowing 32. The Cardinals entered the day one-half game ahead of Pittsburgh for the final National League wild-card slot.
"We face good pitching all season long," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "This shouldn't happen to us one day, let alone four. These guys are embarrassed right now. We're all embarrassed. That's not the team we are."
Same could be said of Wainwright, who allowed six runs and nine hits with three walks and three strikeouts. The right-hander yielded only six earned runs in 36 2-3 innings over his previous five starts.
"Just a really weird night," Wainwright said. "Nothing that's going to do anything but motivate me for next time. Definitely a loss you can pin on my shoulders."
LaRoche's single in the first inning drove in two runs.
Harper finished 2 of 4, his third straight game with two hits, including a two-run single in the fifth. The 19-year old is batting .429 (6 of 14) with two homers and eight RBIs in his last three games.
The Nationals picked on Wainwright early with two runs on four hits in the first inning and ended his night in the third. Three straight RBI singles from Ian Desmond , Danny Espinosa and Suzuki put the Nationals ahead by five runs and Werth laced a two-out RBI single for a 6-0 lead.
Werth finished 3 of 3 with two walks, two runs scored and an RBI.
"We got things going pretty early," Harper said. "That was the biggest thing; we scored runs early and let Gio go out there and pitch."
The Nationals have won five straight against the Cardinals overall and eight of nine at home dating back to 2010.
Gonzalez walked two straight starting the fourth. He was out of danger two batters later, getting Matt Holliday to ground into a double play and Allen Craig to fly out.
Yadier Molina ended any thoughts of a no-hitter with a leadoff double in the fifth, but the Cardinals left him stranded. Two more runners reached in the sixth, but Gonzalez escaped with another double play.
"We ran into a guy who's got great stuff, pitching with confidence, and a team struggling to score runs," Holliday said. "That's a bad combination."
NOTES: Before the game the Cardinals placed All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right elbow. Shortstop Pete Kozma , promoted from Triple-A Memphis, batted eighth. . The Cardinals said outfielder Lance Berkman would be activated from the 15-day DL on Saturday. He's been out since Aug. 3 with an injured right knee. . Johnson announced infielder Mark DeRosa , out since Aug. 5 with a groin injury, would be activated off the disabled list on Saturday. . Jordan Zimmermann will start Saturday for Washington against fellow right-hander Kyle Lohse .