The Washington Nationals have been doing their best impression of the 1927 Yankees for the last couple of weeks, blasting home runs at an obscene rate, and Monday’s series opener at Citi Field was more of the same.
The Nationals blasted three more home runs to account for all their scoring behind Gio Gonzalez, earning a 5-1 victory over the New York Mets in the first of a six-game road trip. Coupled with the Atlanta Braves 4-1 loss in Milwaukee, the Nationals extended their lead in the National League East to 6 1./2 games and moved three full games ahead of the Reds for the best record in the NL.
Kurt Suzuki, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond all went yard for Washington, which picked up where it left off last week from a long-ball standpoint, Sunday’s shutout at the hands of the Miami Marlins notwithstanding. Gonzalez (19-7) took advantage of the run support, surrendering just one run on three hits over his six innings to become the first pitcher in the majors this season to pick up his 19th win. It was the fourth loss in a row for the Mets, who were coming off a sweep at the hands of the Braves.
Gonzalez did scatter five walks amongst his three hits allowed, but nevertheless was rarely in trouble. Thanks to his teammates and their big bats, the lefty tightroped through without a hitch, allowing only a solo home run to Scott Hairston leading off the fourth inning. By that time though, the Nationals had done their damage.
Suzuki was the first to clear the Citi Field fence, but probably shouldn’t have had the opportunity. Earlier in his third-inning at-bat against Mets rookie starter Collin McHugh (0-2), Suzuki hit a pop up straight behind the pate that New York catcher Kelly Shoppach dropped for an error. Given a second chance, Suzuki clobbered a home run to left to open the scoring and continue his recent power surge since coming to the Nationals from Oakland.
Later in the inning, Ryan Zimmerman extended the Nationals lead, jumping on a McHugh curveball and hammering it out to dead center, scoring Bryce Harper and giving Washington a 3-0 advantage. Making only his third career start, McHugh might have deserved better, as all three third-inning runs were unearned thanks to the Shoppach miscue.
Ian Desmond joined the party one inning later, going the opposite way for his 22nd homer of the year, a two-run shot that plated Michael Morse and upped the Nats lead to 5-0. Three Mets pitchers combined to hold the Nats hitless for the remainder of the game, but Gonzalez and a trio of Washington relievers made sure the Mets never got any closer.
Champ of the Game: Gio Gonzalez. Not his sharpest outing, but certainly enough to tame the scuffling Mets, who haven’t plated more than one run in an inning at Citi Field in their last 106 frames. In his first start as the Nationals new No. 1 starter, after the Stephen Strasburg shutdown, Gonzalez did plenty well enough to keep the title. For the Mets, Scott Hairston’s homer provided all the offense.
Next Game: The Nats and Mets square off in the middle game of the series at 7:10 ET at Citi Field on Tuesday night. A stellar pitching match-up awaits, as Washington sends Jordan Zimmermann (10-8, 2.99 ERA) against Mets Cy Young hopeful R.A. Dickey (18-4, 2.64).