Gonzalez sharp, efficient early vs. Mets (Nats win 7-1)

NEW YORK - Gio Gonzalez has been sharp early. And his Nationals teammates have scrapped their way to one early run off Bartolo Colon, thanks to a great at-bat by one of the veteran right-hander's former teammates.

Gonzalez has posted three zeroes so far against the Mets, his only baserunner coming via a walk. The left-hander, who entered with a 1.93 ERA in seven starts, has continued to pitch efficiently (26-of-37 for strikes) while also putting away opposing hitters (three strikeouts of the first eight batters he faced).

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On the heels of three straight losses in which they've scored a total of two runs, the Nationals had to at least be looking forward to the opportunity to face Colon, whose average fastball velocity (88 mph) is a full 5 mph slower than the sliders they saw from Noah Syndergaard last night.

The Nationals have had their fair share of opportunities already against Colon, who has been exhibiting highly unusual command troubles. When the 42-year-old right-hander walked Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper in the top of the first, it represented the first time he had walked back-to-back hitters in nine years.

Then two innings later, Colon did it again, walking Werth and Harper in succession. Those four walks in three innings matched his entire output from his previous 43 1/3 innings.

The Nationals didn't take advantage of the first two walks, but they did at least get one run out of the second pair of free passes, thanks to a fantastic at-bat by Daniel Murphy.

The former Met, who still received some applause in his second game back at Citi Field, fell behind 0-2 to Colon and then fouled off five consecutive pitches to extend the at-bat. Finally, he put a ball in play, sending a chopper down the third base line and off a diving David Wright's glove, good enough to bring Werth home with the night's first run.

The Nationals had a chance to inflict some real damage when Colon loaded the bases moments later, but Anthony Rendon popped up weakly to second base to end the inning.

Update: The Mets finally got to Gonzalez in the bottom of the fourth, when Yoenis Cespedes hammered a 3-1 pitch into the left field bleachers for New York's first hit (and run) of the night. But the Nats responded in the bottom of the fifth, getting a clutch, two-out, two-run single from Anthony Rendon through the left side of the infield. Rendon and the Nats have desperately been waiting for something like that. They've taken a 3-1 lead after five innings.

Update II: The Mets pitching staff is doing everything it possibly can to let the Nats run away with this game. They haven't quite been able to do that, but they do now lead 5-1 after scoring two more runs in the seventh via Murphy's sacrifice fly (which featured a fantastic, Willie Mays-esque catch by Juan Lagares) and Danny Espinosa's bases-loaded walk. That was the eighth walk issued by New York pitchers tonight.

Update III: It's a final. At last. The Nats win 7-1 thanks to some late insurance runs from Wilson Ramos. This one took far longer than necessary, but the Nationals will happily take it and now try to take the series tomorrow night when Stephen Strasburg faces Matt Harvey.

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