For the first time in seven years, Roy Halladay isn’t a contender.
Gonzalez looks to become the first 17-game winner in the majors and the franchise’s first in 15 years as he takes the mound opposite Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night.
Gonzalez (16-6, 3.23 ERA) is tied for the most wins in baseball with Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto, Tampa Bay’s David Price and Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels. The victory total tied his personal best set with Oakland last year and is the most by a member of the Nationals (77-48) since they moved from Montreal in 2005.
“It means a lot,” Gonzalez said. “This is a thank you to the bullpen, a thank you to the team, but we’re not done yet.”
Another win would make him the first in team history to reach 17 since Pedro Martinez went 17-8 with a 1.90 ERA to win the Cy Young with the Expos in 1997. Gonzalez is 10-2 in 14 games away from home, the most road wins in the NL.
The left-hander’s success is a major reason Washington owns the best record in baseball and is atop the NL East by six games over Atlanta, seemingly headed for the postseason for the first time since 1981.
He’s also emerging as a contender for the Cy Young, and that’s familiar territory for Halladay, who won it in 2003 with Toronto and 2010 with the Phillies before finishing second to the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw last year.
Halladay (7-7, 3.95) hasn’t resembled that lofty status this year, but he’s won three of his last four starts with a 2.79 ERA. He wasn’t very sharp Monday, surrendering five runs and 10 hits in seven innings of a 12-5 win over the Reds.
Halladay is 11-2 with a 2.53 ERA in 16 starts against the Nationals franchise, but one of those defeats came at home May 22, when he allowed five runs in six innings.
Gonzalez has dominated the Phillies (59-67) in two starts this year, winning both behind a 0.69 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 13 innings. He fanned nine while yielding three hits in six shutout innings of a 2-1 win at Philadelphia on May 21.
Gonzalez enters this visit with a 2.53 ERA while winning three starts in a row, including 5-2 over New York on Sunday. He battled through 110 pitches in 5 2-3 innings, allowing one run and seven hits.
The Nationals will try to show some improvement offensively after losing 4-2 in the opener of this three-game set Friday and 5-1 to the Braves two days earlier. Washington hasn’t dropped three in a row since July 19-21.
It seems they’ll be without outfielder Michael Morse, who left in the first inning Friday after being hit in the hand by a pitch. X-rays were negative, but manager Davey Johnson said Morse probably would miss “a few days.”
“It’s a bad bruise,” Johnson said. “The good news is it’s not broken.”
Jimmy Rollins will try to give the Phillies a spark at the plate again after getting two hits and driving in a pair of runs Friday. He has five hits and as many RBIs in the past four games.