Gonzalez tries to extend his 16-inning scoreless streak and become the majors' first 19-game winner Monday night as the Nationals open a three-game set against the New York Mets , who've lost nine of 10 in this series at home.
After monitoring Stephen Strasburg 's workload, Washington (86-54) created a stir Saturday by shutting him down a bit earlier than expected. He was originally scheduled to make his final appearance of the season Wednesday against New York (65-75).
While not having to face Strasburg surely comes as a pleasant surprise to the Mets, they can't be looking forward to a matchup with Gonzalez (18-7, 2.98 ERA).
The left-hander has been at the top of his game of late, going 5-1 with a 1.87 ERA over his last six starts. After throwing his first career shutout in a 10-0 win over St. Louis on Aug. 31, Gonzalez allowed three hits and struck out nine over seven scoreless innings Wednesday during a 9-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs .
"I think the way these guys performed tonight, the way they always performed every night, every start that I go out there, it feels like they give me their best in Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers," Gonzalez told the Nationals' official website.
Tied with New York's R.A. Dickey for the most wins in baseball and leading the majors with a .208 opponent batting average, Gonzalez continues to be mentioned in the NL Cy Young conversation.
"I want to continue to win for this team, continue to stay healthy and strong, keep battling and get some more wins for them," he added. "We are playing such great baseball. I think it's selfish of me to think (about) myself."
Gonzalez has typically given the Mets fits, with one exception. He was tagged for a season-worst six runs in 3 1-3 innings during a 9-5 loss July 19, but has posted a 0.92 ERA in his other three starts against New York, winning the last two.
The Nationals could use another gem from Gonzalez after yielding a combined 23 runs while dropping two of three to Miami over the weekend. Edwin Jackson was hit hard in Sunday's 8-0 defeat.
A visit to New York, though, could be just what Washington needs to regroup. The Nationals have taken 11 of the last 14 in this series overall, outscoring the Mets 28-8 during a five-game road winning streak.
New York's recent home woes haven't just come against the Nationals. The Mets have been outscored 121-53 while dropping 19 of 23 at Citi Field, where they were swept by Atlanta over the weekend.
"We're running out of ideas," manager Terry Collins said after Sunday's 3-2, 10-inning defeat. "It's about grinding it out right now. It's about going out there and having some confidence in your ability."
The Mets try to get back on track behind rookie Collin McHugh (0-1, 3.27). The right-hander struck out nine over seven scoreless innings during his big league debut in a 1-0 loss to Colorado on Aug. 23, but wasn't nearly as sharp last Monday at St. Louis.
He allowed four runs and six hits over four innings of a 5-4 loss.
"I didn't have very good command," he told the Mets' official website. "I've got to be smarter, it's as simple as that. I put us in a pretty deep hole early on. Hats off to the guys for scraping, but I've got to do better than that."
|September 03, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right thumb|
|September 02, 2012||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Sore hamstring|
|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|
|New York Mets|
|September 07, 2012||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Left knee bruise|
|August 18, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|August 15, 2012||Rob Johnson||60-Day DL||Torn ligament, left thumb|
|August 02, 2012||Tim Byrdak||60-Day DL||Sore left shoulder|
|July 31, 2012||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Strained right thumb|
|July 31, 2012||Jason Bay||Day-to-Day||Bruised left calf|
NEW YORK (AP) -- Gio Gonzalez was totally prepared to take on the New York Mets . A question about a possible Cy Young Award? That threw him.
Gonzalez earned his big league-leading 19th victory and the Washington Nationals backed him with three home runs to beat the listless Mets 5-1 Monday night.
Gonzalez is certainly a prime contender for the top pitching prize. But he playfully put up his hands when the subject was broached after the game.
"When you start looking at one thing, it'll drive you crazy," he said. "If it comes, it comes."
Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has 18 wins and a better ERA than Gonzalez, and starts against the Nationals on Tuesday night. Asked whether he was eager for Washington to face Dickey - and perhaps dent his Cy Young chances - manager Davey Johnson had a simple answer.
"Not really," he said.
Kurt Suzuki put the Nationals ahead with a home run right after catcher Kelly Shoppach dropped his wind-blown foul popup for an error. Ryan Zimmerman launched a two-run shot later in the third inning and Ian Desmond added a two-run drive in the fourth.
That was plenty for Gonzalez (19-7) and the team with the best record in the majors. The lefty gave up three hits over six innings, none until Scott Hairston homered in the fourth.
Gonzalez worked around five walks and extended his career high for wins. He seemed relaxed enough, chatting with fans in the front row while waiting in the on-deck circle in the sixth as Suzuki batted.
Gonzalez matched a season high for walks, yet lowered his ERA to 2.93.
"Couldn't find the strike zone," he said. "Drank a little too much coffee. I don't know what it was."
The Nationals opened a six-game swing that ends this weekend in Atlanta, where they'll play their closest pursuers in the NL East.
It had already been a jocular trip for the Nationals by the time they arrived in New York. As part of rookie hazing that is traditional in baseball culture, the club made its newcomers dress up as the U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics team - including red leotards and gold medals - for the train ride from Washington to Manhattan and dinner out Sunday night.
Teen star Bryce Harper wore the outfit, then had a wardrobe malfunction against the Mets. He broke his belt while diving for Andres Torres ' liner in the fourth, and quickly hustled to the Nationals' bullpen in center field for a loaner.
The Mets lost their fourth in a row, deepening their drought at Citi Field. They tied a team record by scoring three or fewer runs for the 11th straight game at home, matching the mark last done in 1979.
"I've done this long enough to know that you don't ever give up," manager Terry Collins said. "You don't ever stop, you don't ever stop grinding it out. You don't ever stop walking through the locker room every day making sure the guys are upbeat, that they're positive, trying to move forward. That doesn't change one bit."
David Wright and his teammates have gone 106 straight innings at home without scoring more than one run.
Collins tried a timing adjustment, changing when his starters took batting practice. He had them hit later, wanting to cut down the 2 1/2-hour gap between BP and game time.
"We're kind of grasping at straws," Collins admitted.
While Andy Murray was winning the U.S. Open tennis tournament right across the street, Mets rookie Collin McHugh (0-2) was serving up home runs. Suzuki hit his fourth, Zimmerman got his 21st and Desmond connected for his 22nd, all off the 25-year-old righty making his third major league start.
Zimmerman's shot was retrieved by a fan dressed in Mets orange who hopped onto the black batter's eye in dead center field and danced with the souvenir, drawing cheers from the crowd.
NOTES: Dickey (18-4, 2.64 ERA) will oppose RHP Jordan Zimmermann (10-8, 2.99). ... Harper said he doesn't expect to start against Dickey - the rookie is 0 for 10 with six strikeouts vs. the knuckleballer, no matter where he stands or what he swings. "In, out, up, down, back and forth, light, heavy, tried it all. Just can't hit the guy," Harper said. ... Gonzalez has beaten the Mets three times in the last two months. ... Zimmerman has a 14-game hitting streak. ... Washington is 12-4 against the Mets this year. ... Torres took away an extra-base hit from Danny Espinosa with a leaping grab.