Gio Gonzalez is on the verge of matching his career high for wins in a season. He’s also closing in on a piece of team history.
Gonzalez (15-6, 3.29 ERA) has moved into position to tie his 16 victories from last season with Oakland by winning back-to-back starts. He gave up a two-run homer and five other hits over 6 2-3 innings Monday in San Francisco and got plenty of support in a 14-2 rout.
“I just tried to pound the strike zone,” Gonzalez said.
A similar effort from his teammates would likely make Gonzalez the first Nationals pitcher to record 16 wins since the franchise relocated from Montreal before the 2005 season. Livan Hernandez was the only other Nationals player to earn 15 victories, doing it in 2005, and Javier Vazquez was the last man to win at least 16 games for the Expos in 2001.
The NL East-leading Nationals (74-46) enter this game having won 21 of 28, but they were shut out for the first time this month Saturday. Washington had four singles and a double in a 2-0 defeat, while Ike Davis’ two-run homer helped the Mets (57-63) to their fourth win in 12 games.
New York has won only four of its last 18 against the Nationals.
“It’s great to beat them. You always want to beat the best. And right now they’re the best in the division,” said Davis, who is 3 for 5 with a home run against Gonzalez this season.
If the Nationals have trouble scoring again, Gonzalez will need a performance more like his most recent matchup with the Mets than his only start against them at Nationals Park.
He yielded one unearned run and two hits over seven innings during a 5-2 victory at New York on July 24. That superb outing came five days after a 9-5 home loss to the Mets in which he gave up a season-high six runs over 3 1-3 innings, his shortest start in 2012.
On Sunday, he’ll pitch opposite Jeremy Hefner (2-4, 4.76), whose first start since Aug. 4 will give New York a six-man rotation. The rookie right-hander is 2-3 with a 5.13 ERA in six starts this season and 0-2 with a 3.75 ERA in two against Washington.
“I’ve worked really hard to get to where I’m at now, not just this year but in my entire career,” Hefner told the Mets’ official website after beating San Diego in his most recent start. “I think it’s just all my hard work, it’s kind of paying off a little bit.”
He gave up four runs over six innings during his only game at Nationals Park, a 5-3 loss June 6. Adam LaRoche hit a three-run homer off Hefner in the first inning.