Gio Gonzalez will try to become just the third 16-game winner in the majors when he leads Washington into the rubber match of a three-game series versus the New York Mets this afternoon in D.C.
Gonzalez is 15-6 with a 3.29 earned run average in 24 starts and has won two straight and three of his last four decisions. The All-Star left-hander was aided by a 14-2 score in Monday's victory at San Francisco and tossed 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball.
He is 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA in two starts against the Mets this season and 1-1 with a 3.63 ERA in three career starts in this series. Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati and Tampa Bay's David Price both have 16 wins, and the last player in the Washington franchise to post that many wins in a season was Javier Vazquez back in 2001 with Montreal.
Gonzalez won 16 games a year ago with Oakland and has recorded at least 15 victories in three straight years.
The Nationals dropped a 2-0 decision on Saturday, when starter Edwin Jackson served up a two-run homer to Ike Davis in the top of the seventh inning. Jackson suffered the hard-luck loss and struck out 11 batters with one walk in seven innings.
"He left a fastball up and away and I hit it on the barrel and it got out of there," Davis said of his homer against Jackson.
Danny Espinosa had two of Washington's five hits, but the Nationals went hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position en route to the loss. Washington lost for just the third time in 14 tries and still leads the NL East by four games over the Atlanta Braves.
The Nationals will open a three-game series versus Atlanta on Monday.
New York is aiming for a series win today and will wrap up a six-game road trip (2-3). Davis was the hero with his two-run shot and starter Jon Niese collected the win, as he tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings and held Washington to five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.
"Tonight Niese was the better pitcher," Jackson said of his counterpart. "He came out and he held us scoreless and the bullpen did the same."
Jon Rauch got the final two outs in the eighth inning and Frank Francisco nailed down his 20th save in the ninth. The Mets are 1-8-1 in 10 series and 11-23 since the All-Star break, while Mike Baxter has hit in a career-best seven straight games, going 9-for-25 since August 9.
David Wright still needs one homer to reach 200 and will join former New York stars Darryl Strawberry (252) and Mike Piazza (220) in that category. Wright hasn't homered since July 27 at Arizona.
Ruben Tejada went 0-for-4 and entered the game with at least one hit in 20 of the previous 21 contests. He is 1-for-2 this season against Gonzalez and has one hit in five career at-bats against the lefty.
The Mets improved to 9-20 against the NL East since a 13-5 mark in division play, and will return home later this afternoon to start a seven-game residency versus Colorado and Houston.
Mets rookie Jeremy Hefner draws the start Sunday and is 2-4 with a 4.76 earned run average in 18 games (6 starts). The right-hander has recorded three straight no-decisions and tossed two innings in Wednesday's 6-1 loss at Cincinnati, charged with one run and three hits.
Hefner has lost both of his appearances against Washington this season, spanning 12 innings with a 3.75 ERA.
The Nationals are 10-4 against New York so far this season.