Washington's Gio Gonzalez still remains grateful for the opportunity to begin his major league career with the Oakland Athletics.
Facing the A's for the first time since they traded him to Washington three years ago, Gonzalez tries to help the visiting Nationals avoid being swept by his former team Sunday.
Gonzalez (3-2, 2.91 ERA) made his big league debut with Oakland in 2008 and went 38-32 with a 3.93 ERA over four seasons there, making the All-Star team in 2011. In December of that year, the left-hander was dealt to Washington as part of a six-player deal that included current Athletics Derek Norris and Tommy Milone.
Though Gonzalez won 21 games and made another All-Star appearance in 2012 for the Nationals (19-17), he looks back fondly on his time in Oakland.
"I think it's a great atmosphere, always had a lot of love out here," he told the Nationals' official website. "It's one of those moments you take in at the time, because it will be gone by the next series."
Since allowing season highs of six runs and nine hits over six innings in a loss at Atlanta on April 13, Gonzalez is 1-1 with a 2.49 ERA in his past four starts. He gave up one run with four hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 1-0 defeat at Philadelphia last Sunday.
Gonzalez's task this time is to help prevent the Nationals' franchise from falling to 0-6 all-time at Oakland.
Washington's Tanner Roark pitched two-hit ball over 7 2-3 innings and left with a 3-1 lead Saturday, but Rafael Soriano gave up two runs in the ninth and Drew Storen yielded a RBI double to John Jaso in the 10th for a 4-3 defeat.
"Sometimes certain guys come up key in games when you don't get many hits," said Oakland manager Bob Melvin, whose team has won three straight after losing three in a row and five of six. "(Jaso) did most of the damage. When you get down to those situations, it just becomes a grind."
Jaso had three hits, including his second homer in as many games. He's 6 for 13 with four RBIs in his last three contests.
The A's will hand the ball to Scott Kazmir (4-1, 2.64), who looks to bounce back after he allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings of a 4-2 loss to Seattle on Monday.
In his only outing against the Nationals, the left-hander gave up five runs, four hits, including three solo homers, and four walks over 2 2-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 7-6 loss with Cleveland on June 15.
Washington's Denard Span is the only Nationals player with more than one hit against Kazmir, going 2 for 8 with a triple.
Danny Espinosa homered and Kevin Frandsen had two RBIs Saturday for Washington, which has totaled 15 runs while losing five of seven.
Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche is batting .319, but his status for the finale remains uncertain after he sat Saturday with a quad strain he aggravated during Friday's 8-0 defeat.
"We have to look at his long-term health, too, and the long-term health of this club," manager Matt Williams said.
Oakland's Alberto Callaspo is 5 for 32 in his last 10 games, but is hitting .400 (8 for 20) versus Gonzalez. Teammate Nick Punto is 4 for 8 against him.
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