The Washington Nationals have made Citi Field their personal stomping grounds this season and will try for a seventh straight win there in the continuation of a three-game series against the New York Mets.
The NL East-leading Nationals made it six wins in a row in Flushing with Monday's 5-1 verdict, as Gio Gonzalez became the first pitcher to 19 wins by limiting the Mets to a run and three hits in six innings. He did walk five batters, but struck out six.
"I'm focused on trying to get more wins," Gonzalez said. "We're just having fun and playing our baseball."
Gonzalez was backed by home runs from Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Kurt Suzuki. The Nationals, who have a 6 1/2-game lead on the Atlanta Braves in the division, improved to 10-3 in their last 13 games and opened a six-game road trip on a high note.
Major League Baseball's only team to have a winning record every month this year, Washington is 37-6 when scoring three or more runs since the All-Star break and 7-3 in September.
Jordan Zimmermann looks to string back-to-back winning starts together when he takes the mound tonight for the 29th time this season. Zimmermann ended a four-start winless streak (0-2) his last time out in a 9-2 pounding of the Chicago Cubs in which he struck out nine and gave up two runs in seven innings. He improved to 10-8 and lowered his earned run average to 2.99.
"I felt I had a pretty good fastball, and we stuck with that most of the night," Zimmermann said after his most recent outing. "The slider wasn't very good, so we went with the curveball. I was able to locate the fastball and go up and in when I wanted to."
Zimmermann is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three meetings with the Mets this season and 3-2 in 10 career starts against them.
New York has dropped the first four games of its six-game homestand and six of seven overall, including last night's poor offensive showing.
Scott Hairston's solo home run was one of only five hits for the Mets, while rookie starting pitcher Collin McHugh surrendered five runs -- two earned -- and five hits in four innings to suffer the loss.
"I still believe in them," Mets manager Terry Collins said on the club's website. "The second half of the season has certainly been something we're disappointed in, but I'm still very, very positive that there's some good things we're seeing. When this season's over, we'll discuss the negative side, and we'll discuss it fast and quick, because there's a lot of positives we're going to be able to move forward with."
The Mets are 19-36 since the break (4-19 at home) and have lost 20 of the past 24 games as the host. They are 1-6 in home series in the second half of the season and have scored three runs or less in 11 straight home contests.
R.A. Dickey will try to give the Mets a glimmer of hope when he attempts to match Gonzalez with 19 wins this evening. Dickey has won three straight starts, allowing three runs in that time, and delivered 6 2/3 innings of two- run ball in a 6-2 triumph at St. Louis on Wednesday.
Dickey, who shut out Miami the start before, is 18-4 with a 2.64 earned run average in 29 games (28 starts) this season. The first Mets pitcher to record 18 wins since Frank Viola won 20 and Dwight Gooden 19 back in 1990, the knuckleballer is 8-1 at Citi Field this season. He is 2-1 in three starts against Washington this season and 4-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 14 career matchups, 12 of which have been starts, in this series.
Nationals rookie Bryce Harper is 0-for-10 with six Ks against Dickey.
New York has lost 12 of the 16 meetings with Washington this season.