Nationals-Mets Preview

The Associated Press

Superb pitching has been vital to the New York Mets' early success at Citi Field.

They may need another strong performance on the mound if they're going to beat Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals on Saturday.

New York (8-7) has won five of seven home games thanks in large part to a 2.14 ERA - 1.87 from the rotation. That's a dramatic difference from the Mets' 6.42 ERA in eight road games.

They got another strong performance in the opener of this series Friday, when Matt Harvey outpitched Stephen Strasburg in a 7-1 victory, ending their eight-game home slide to Washington (9-7). Harvey allowed one run and four hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings.

"He pitched great, but that's the mark of a true ace," manager Terry Collins said. "Games like that can spread to great seasons."

Gonzalez (1-1, 4.50 ERA) pitched plenty of great games last season for the Nationals in finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting, and he certainly had his way with the Mets in his final three starts. The left-hander won all three while posting a 0.96 ERA.

That includes limiting New York to a .116 average in two road outings.

Gonzalez will try to continue that dominance while rebounding from Sunday's 9-0 loss to Atlanta. He was tagged for seven runs and seven hits - two homers - with three walks in five innings after compiling an 0.82 ERA over his first two starts.

"Our job is to make sure we keep them as close as possible, and I didn't do that," Gonzalez said.

Jeremy Hefner (0-2, 7.20) hasn't come close to doing that, either.

The right-hander has surrendered seven runs and four homers in four innings over his last two games - one start. Rain and snow postponed two games and have kept him from starting since a 7-3 loss at Philadelphia on April 10.

Hefner, however, was impressive in his only home start so far, yielding one run in six innings of a 7-5 loss to Miami on April 5.

Hefner's recent troubles may only continue since he lost all three starts versus the Nationals as a rookie last year while compiling a 5.29 ERA. Bryce Harper went 3 for 9 with a double, a triple and a homer in their matchups.

The Mets have 12 homers at Citi Field after going deep four times Friday, and they've hit at least one in each of their first seven home games for the first time since 2002.

They haven't put together a longer season-opening string at home since homering at least once in the first 14 games of their inaugural season of 1962.

Ike Davis and Lucas Duda hit two each Friday, and all three of Davis' have come at home. The first baseman is hitting .173 while tying Marlon Byrd with a team-high 15 strikeouts, but at 4 for 10 he's one of the few Mets who has had some success against Gonzalez.

Duda, 1 for 2 against Gonzalez, is 7 for 17 with four solo homers and seven runs over the past six games.

New York last won back-to-back home meetings with the Nationals when it swept a two-game set from May 18-19, 2011.

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