Twins-Nationals Preview

STATS Writer

Gio Gonzalez may be looking forward to just stepping on the mound.

Some offensive production would be a welcome change, though the Washington Nationals aren't expected to have one of their top sluggers back for a while.

After being named in a report involving an investigation about performance-enhancing drugs, Gonzalez attempts to win for the first time in a month as the Nationals open a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

Gonzalez (3-3, 3.64 ERA) was scheduled to start Thursday's series finale against the New York Mets before it was rained out.

The left-hander was among the names revealed in a report involving an MLB investigation of players linked to an anti-aging clinic in Miami. As many as 20 players could be suspended for using PEDs, but the left-hander is expected to avoid punishment since he's linked to legal substances.

"We came into spring training with this kind of cloud over the team, and Gio came in and took the reins and explained exactly what happened," reliever Tyler Clippard, who is also the team's union player representative, told the Nationals' official website. "He wanted to make sure that he explained it to his teammates, which he did. I think he explained to the media just as well as he explained it to us.

"For me, knowing Gio, knowing the kind of guy that he is, I believe him wholeheartedly. He has done it the right way, in my opinion."

Gonzalez, who finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting last year, has been superb over his last five starts. He's compiled a 2.14 ERA and limited opponents to a .190 average and one homer, but is 0-1 since the Nationals (29-30) have backed him with one run in four of those outings.

That was the theme again Saturday, when he yielded one run and three hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings of a 2-1 loss in 10 at Atlanta.

Making matters worse, Bryce Harper has suffered a setback in his return from a left knee injury and isn't expected to come off the disabled list in the immediate future.

"We've just got to get the swelling out. We've got to get the inflammation out of there,'' manager Davey Johnson said. "We haven't been real successful with our treatment here.''

Gonzalez is 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA in his last four starts against the Twins (26-31), though he hasn't faced them since 2011 while with Oakland.

Justin Morneau has hit Gonzalez hard with two hits - both homers - in five career at-bats.

After winning seven of eight, Minnesota lost the last two of its three-game series at Kansas City, including a 7-3 defeat Thursday.

"It's a tough one to lose," losing pitcher Jared Burton said. "We needed this series.''

Struggling right-hander Kevin Correia (5-4, 4.09) will try to get the Twins back on track in the series opener.

Correia is 2-3 with a 6.09 ERA over his last six starts, surrendering six home runs in his last two.

He's 3-2 with a 3.65 ERA in six career outings against the Nationals.

Although Adam LaRoche is 7 for 23 with two homers and four doubles lifetime versus Correia, those home runs are his only hits in his last 14 at-bats against him.

The Twins have won seven of nine all-time meetings, but the teams haven't played since 2008.