Nats scratch out runs, Gonzalez effective again in 7-1 win

NEW YORK - There was no offensive outburst from a lineup that has sorely needed of one of those. But there were a whole lot of quality plate appearances, plenty of patience when necessary and a couple of clutch hits at opportune moments.

Combine that with another strong pitching performance by Gio Gonzalez, and the Nationals did just enough things right tonight to beat the Mets, 7-1, and hold their tenuous position atop the NL East as the season reaches the quarter mark.

Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon delivered the timely hits, making Bartolo Colon pay for his surprisingly wild outing.

After flailing away helplessly at Jose Fernandez and Noah Syndergaard their previous two games, the Nationals couldn't help but be eager at the prospect of facing the less-imposing Colon. Little could they have guessed the 42-year-old right-hander would help his opponents out with highly uncharacteristic command.


Colon, who hadn't issued back-to-back walks in nine years, did it twice in the first three innings tonight. He walked five batters in all, something he hadn't done in 11 years.

The Nationals had opportunities to knock out Colon early and couldn't do it, but they finally got a pair of two-out clutch hits at the right moments to get the job done.

Murphy delivered the first one, battling through a tough at-bat in which he fouled off five straight 0-2 pitches before poking a grounder past a diving David Wright at third base to give the Nats a 1-0 lead in the third.

Two innings later, Rendon sent a perfectly placed grounder through the left side of the infield with two outs and two in scoring position. Both Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper touched the plate, and Rendon added some much-needed RBIs to his season total, which now stands at eight.

The Nationals tacked on some insurance runs late thanks to their patience, which produced 10 walks. Four of those walks were drawn by Harper, another three by Werth (who reached base five times for the first time since 2012).

Though he didn't receive as much support as he probably could have gotten on this night, Gonzalez made it hold up with his latest strong outing in a season filled with them so far. The left-hander retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced, only giving up his first hit in the bottom of the fourth, when Yoenis Cespedes homered off a 3-1 pitch.

Gonzalez was otherwise fantastic, carrying a two-hitter into the bottom of the seventh, when he finally succumbed by allowing three singles. Dusty Baker turned to Felipe Rivero to pitch out of the bases-loaded, one-out jam, and the left-hander responded by inducing a pair of groundouts.

With the win, the Nationals held onto their 1/2-game lead over the Phillies in the NL East. The Mets now sit 1 1/2 games back entering Thursday's series finale, with Stephen Strasburg facing Matt Harvey in a star-studded pitching matchup.

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