Gonzalez held the depleted New York lineup in check for 5 2/3 innings before handing things off to none other than Tanner Roark, who in his first relief appearance of the season tossed another 2 1/3 innings of perfect ball to help lead the Nationals to a 3-2 win at Citi Field.
Murphy’s two-run homer in the top of the first set the stage, and Wilson Ramos’ RBI single in the third gave his team some extra cushion that proved necessary in this tight game.
The Nationals thus won three in a row to finish off this weekend series against the Mets, expanding their lead in the National League East to a healthy six games heading into the All-Star break.
The first inning began with a bang when Murphy (to the surprise of nobody who has been paying attention) crushed a two-run homer off the second deck in right field. That represented Murphy’s seventh homer and 20th and 21st RBIs in 13 games against the Mets, a staggering amount of damage inflicted on the club that chose not to make a serious attempt to re-sign him over the winter.
The Mets did strike right back when Jose Reyes belted the first of his two solo homers off Gonzalez, the start of a laborious, 26-pitch opening frame by the left-hander that suggested a potentially long afternoon on the mound.
Gonzalez, though, was sharp the rest of the way. Though he did serve up Reyes’ second homer in the top of the third, he otherwise limited the Mets to two hits and four walks over 5 2/3 innings, continuing his longstanding track record of success against this team.
With the Nationals leading 3-2 with two outs in the sixth, manager Dusty Baker turned to an unfamiliar face out of his bullpen: Roark. The right-hander threw 99 pitches in Wednesday’s victory over the Brewers, but with the All-Star break looming, there was no harm bringing him back on short rest for some relief work today.
Roark responded by retiring all seven batters he faced over 2 1/3 scoreless innings, bridging the gap to the back end of the Nationals bullpen.
Jonathan Papelbon then pitched the ninth to finish it off, notching his 19th save in 21 opportunities.