The Washington Nationals are comfortably atop the NL East with the league's best record, but Gio Gonzalez is still seeking his first victory in over seven weeks.
Getting the ball opposite Cole Hamels may not help.Gonzalez will try to avoid the longest winless drought of his career as a starter as the Nationals attempt to solve Hamels on the road for the first time in three years Tuesday night.Washington (75-55) is 7 1/2 games ahead of second-place Atlanta in the division, thanks in part to winning 12 of 14 behind a 2.27 ERA from the rotation.The starters, though, have compiled a 4.88 ERA while splitting the last four games, including a 3-2 defeat Monday to open this three-game series.Gonzalez (6-9, 3.83) looks to help the Nationals avoid consecutive defeats for the first time since Aug. 4-5, but he's 0-5 with a 4.36 ERA in eight starts since a 13-0 win over the Cubs on July 5. The left-hander also went eight starts without a win May 12-June 19, 2013.Gonzalez, though, isn't entirely to blame for his recent drought, as he's been backed by three runs over his past seven outings.He didn't get any support for the second straight start Thursday, when he allowed four hits in seven innings of a 1-0 walkoff win over Arizona.The performance was a relief to Gonzalez, who had a 5.20 ERA over his seven previous outings."I just wanted to try and blend in with the rest of the rotation," Gonzalez said. "You try not to stick out like a sore thumb."He struggled against the Phillies (59-72) on July 31, surrendering five runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings of a 10-4 defeat. Gonzalez has lost three straight starts to Philadelphia behind a 5.29 ERA.Hamels is 9-3 with a 2.68 ERA in 16 home starts against the Nationals, compiling a 2.06 ERA while winning three straight decisions over the last five matchups.Hamels (7-6, 2.53), among the NL's ERA leaders, dominated them in Washington on Aug. 3. He gave up one unearned run in seven innings, but the Phillies were three-hit in a 4-0 defeat.The left-hander got some help Wednesday, when he gave up three runs and nine hits in five innings of a 4-3 victory over Seattle. Hamels has a 1.87 ERA while going 5-1 in his last nine starts."He's pitched outstanding," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He was due for a win like this with not his best stuff and his teammates picking him up. He's on a long roll of good games and some of them without the run support."Ben Revere is among the league leaders with a .311 average, but he's 4 for 20 in six home meetings with the Nationals this year after going 0 for 4 on Monday.The center fielder, though, is 7 for 16 against Gonzalez.It's unclear if Washington will have Asdrubal Cabrera back in the lineup after he was limited to pinch-hitting duties Monday and singled in the ninth. Cabrera injured his rib in Sunday's 14-6 win over San Francisco, and manager Matt Williams said he's day-to-day.
The Washington Nationals are slugging .477 this season in at-bats ending on a fastball on the inner third of the plate or farther inside from a lefty, the third-highest rate in baseball. Hitters are batting .412 against such pitches from Cole Hamels this season.