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Nationals' Gonzalez barely msses no-hitter

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals hit about half a mile's worth of home runs on Monday night. But all they could think about was the one hit by the New York Mets that traveled no more than 100 feet.

Gio Gonzalez struck out eight in pitching a one-hit shutout -- and came within inches of throwing a no-hitter -- and the Nationals hit five homers in a 9-0 trouncing of the Mets at Citi Field.

The Nationals' power barrage - they scored all their runs in the first five innings on three-run blasts by Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos and solo shots by Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman and Tyler Moore - was a mere footnote as Gonzalez took the mound in the seventh inning, having retired 17 in a row since a one-out walk in the first.

Mets pinch-hitter Zach Lutz, who entered the game with three hits in 20 career at-bats, swung at Gonzalez's first pitch. The ball kicked up chalk along the first-base line as umpire John Hirschbeck signaled fair ball and Adam LaRoche dove for it. But the ball sailed just to the left of LaRoche and into foul territory as Gonzalez grimaced.

"You can hear the cheers, you can hear the people standing up, the crowd rooting for you," Gonzalez said after his second career shutout. "It's just a bittersweet moment, where you're happy you got the win and the team did great. It's a sad moment when you lose a no-hitter down the line."

Gonzalez, normally one of the most enthusiastic players in the game, was still mourning his near-miss afterward. As he exited the shower, he shook his head forlornly and lightly rapped a trash can with his knuckles.

Later, he said he hadn't seen a replay of Lutz's hit - and that he didn't really want to see it.

"I would rather take your word for it," Gonzalez said. "Bob [Davidson] behind the plate [is] going 'It hit the line.'

"So it's like - you know what?" Gonzalez said as he clicked his tongue. "That's it."

"It" was still the best night of Gonzalez's career. The Mets, whose starting lineup featured just three players from their Opening Day roster, had just two hard-hit balls -- infield liners by Eric Young and Juan Lagares -- off Gonzalez in the first six innings, a span in which he threw just 73 pitches.

"Great performance -- had control all night long, was getting his pitches over," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "It was fun watching him."

Fun for Gonzalez turned to agony in the seventh, but he shook off the disappointment and retired eight in a row before walking Lutz with two outs in the ninth. Three pitches later, he retired Jordan Brown on a fly to left to secure the Nationals' third one-hitter of the year.

"He threw the ball well enough tonight to get the no-hitter, especially with [Lutz's hit] being the only hit," Zimmerman said.

Alas, the franchise's first no-hitter since 1991 -- when Dennis Martinez threw a perfect game for the Montreal Expos -- will have to wait.

"Unfortunately, he didn't get it, but a one-hit shutout's not too shabby either," Zimmerman said. "He should be proud of what he did tonight."

Span and Zimmerman led off the game with solo homers for the Nationals (74-69), who won for the 14th time in their last 19 games as they kept their flickering wild-card hopes alive. Washington is seven games behind Cincinnati for the National League's second wild card.

"We know we've put ourselves in this position," Zimmerman said. "It's not an ideal situation to be in, but nothing really matters unless we win. So we've got to go out every night and hope that we get some help."

The Mets (64-78) lost for the sixth time in their last eight games but avoided being no-hit for the first time since the Astros' Darryl Kile threw a no-hitter on Sept. 8, 1993.

"Fortunately we put a ball in play where nobody was at, so we can go home at least knowing we didn't get no-hit," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Carlos Torres, the first of seven Mets pitchers, allowed six runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four over four innings.

NOTES: The back-to-back homers by the Nationals in the first marked the eighth time they've hit back-to-back homers this year and the first time since July 27, when they did it against the Mets at Nationals Park. ... Nationals LF Bryce Harper will be out Monday and Tuesday due to inflammation in his left hip. He last played on Friday. ... The Mets made a spate of roster moves Monday as they recalled RHP Aaron Harang, OF Mike Baxter and C Juan Centeno from Triple-A Las Vegas. They made room for Harang and Centeno by placing LHP Scott Rice (hernia) and 1B Ike Davis (oblique) on the 60-day disabled list. ... Mets closer Bobby Parnell (herniated disc in his neck) will undergo surgery. Parnell, who last pitched on July 30, went 5-5 with 22 saves and a 2.16 ERA in 49 games this year.
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