Gio Gonzalez may be looking forward to just stepping on the mound.
Some offensive production would be a welcome change, though the Washington Nationals aren't expected to have one of their top sluggers back for a while.
After being named in a report involving an investigation about performance-enhancing drugs, Gonzalez attempts to win for the first time in a month as the Nationals open a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
Gonzalez (3-3, 3.64 ERA) was scheduled to start Thursday's series finale against the New York Mets before it was rained out.
The left-hander was among the names revealed in a report involving an MLB investigation of players linked to an anti-aging clinic in Miami. As many as 20 players could be suspended for using PEDs, but the left-hander is expected to avoid punishment since he's linked to legal substances.
"We came into spring training with this kind of cloud over the team, and Gio came in and took the reins and explained exactly what happened," reliever Tyler Clippard , who is also the team's union player representative, told the Nationals' official website. "He wanted to make sure that he explained it to his teammates, which he did. I think he explained to the media just as well as he explained it to us.
"For me, knowing Gio, knowing the kind of guy that he is, I believe him wholeheartedly. He has done it the right way, in my opinion."
Gonzalez, who finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting last year, has been superb over his last five starts. He's compiled a 2.14 ERA and limited opponents to a .190 average and one homer, but is 0-1 since the Nationals (29-30) have backed him with one run in four of those outings.
That was the theme again Saturday, when he yielded one run and three hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings of a 2-1 loss in 10 at Atlanta.
Making matters worse, Bryce Harper has suffered a setback in his return from a left knee injury and isn't expected to come off the disabled list in the immediate future."We've just got to get the swelling out. We've got to get the inflammation out of there," manager Davey Johnson said. "We haven't been real successful with our treatment here."
Gonzalez is 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA in his last four starts against the Twins (26-31), though he hasn't faced them since 2011 while with Oakland.
Justin Morneau has hit Gonzalez hard with two hits - both homers - in five career at-bats.
After winning seven of eight, Minnesota lost the last two of its three-game series at Kansas City, including a 7-3 defeat Thursday."It's a tough one to lose," losing pitcher Jared Burton said. "We needed this series."
Struggling right-hander Kevin Correia (5-4, 4.09) will try to get the Twins back on track in the series opener.
Correia is 2-3 with a 6.09 ERA over his last six starts, surrendering six home runs in his last two.
He's 3-2 with a 3.65 ERA in six career outings against the Nationals.
Although Adam LaRoche is 7 for 23 with two homers and four doubles lifetime versus Correia, those home runs are his only hits in his last 14 at-bats against him.
The Twins have won seven of nine all-time meetings, but the teams haven't played since 2008.
|June 01, 2013||Justin Morneau||Day-to-Day||Illness|
|May 29, 2013||Trevor Plouffe||15-Day DL||Strained left calf|
|May 26, 2013||Wilkin Ramirez||7-Day DL||Head injury|
|May 23, 2013||Pedro Florimon||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained right index finger|
|May 22, 2013||Trevor Plouffe||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|May 22, 2013||Trevor Plouffe||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|June 03, 2013||Danny Espinosa||15-Day DL||Broken bone in right wrist|
|June 01, 2013||Stephen Strasburg||15-Day DL||Strained right latissimus dorsi|
|May 31, 2013||Stephen Strasburg||Day-to-Day||Strained right lat|
|May 27, 2013||Bryce Harper||15-Day DL||Left knee bursitis|
|May 26, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Left game - Sore left knee|
|May 24, 2013||Danny Espinosa||Day-to-Day||Broken bone in right wrist|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson got what he wanted, a second consecutive rainout to give his battered team an extra day to heal.
Maybe the mental break will turn out to be the catalyst the Nationals have been seeking. Certainly, nothing else has worked so far.
The preseason NL East favorite remained one game below .500 Friday, when a series opener against the Minnesota Twins was postponed as rain from Tropical Storm Andrea moved north. The game will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on Sunday.
The Nationals' Thursday night game against the New York Mets also was washed out, and Johnson said afterward that "even one more rainout would be better."
"With the number of guys we have on the DL, this is a welcome call," Johnson said.
Young marquee stars Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper head a disabled list that also includes another starting pitcher ( Ross Detwiler ) and two other position players who started on opening day, catcher Wilson Ramos and second baseman Danny Espinosa . If nothing else, the rainouts mean the Nationals won't have to promote a pitcher from the minors to take Strasburg's turn in the rotation this weekend.
But the Nationals' woes go beyond the injuries. They're hitting .230 with a major league-worst .287 on-base percentage. Harper has missed 25 games, yet he leads the team in homers (12) and runs (29) and is second in walks (25). Ryan Zimmerman is the only regular in the current lineup hitting better than .270. Bench players who contributed so well last season when starters were out now look like they belong on the bench: Roger Bernadina (.165), Tyler Moore (.149) and Chad Tracy (.145).
But there's another stat that shows just how much the Nationals will be fighting history if they want to make a championship run: They're getting clobbered a lot.
They've already lost nine games - that's nearly one-third of their losses - by six or more runs, including Wednesday's 10-1 defeat to the Mets. Traditionally, top teams don't get beat that badly that often.
Those nine blowout losses already match the entire regular-season total of four of the last six World Series champions. The 2009 New York Yankees had 15, but even that number pales compared to Washington's current pace of 25. Last year's Nationals, who finished with the best record in baseball, had only eight.
The Nationals woke up Friday trailing the first-place Atlanta Braves by 7 1/2 games. However, there remain more 100 games to play. Johnson and his players have stressed the need for patience over panic to the point that the words sound rote, as in when Johnson repeated the message Thursday.
"It's a long season. We've gone through some injuries," the manager said. "I think we're going to come out of it all right. We got the guys here to do it. We need to get on with it."
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