Gio Gonzalez may be looking forward to just stepping on the mound.
Some production from the bats would be a welcome change.
After being named in a report involving an investigation about performance-enhancing drugs, Gonzalez attempts to win for the first time in a month and help the Washington Nationals take this three-game series with the New York Mets on Thursday night.
Gonzalez (3-3, 3.64 ERA) 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 team's 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 while limiting opponents to a .190 average and one homer, but is 0-1 since he's been backed by 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. Despite the offense's struggles, Gonzalez isn't faulting his teammates.
"I'm proud of these guys," he said. "They worked their tails off. They do it every game. I'm not disappointed at all. They're playing their hearts out."
Offense hasn't been an issue over Gonzalez's last four starts against the Mets (23-33), since he's 3-0 with a 2.78 ERA while being backed by an average of 8.3 runs. He needed the help April 20, when he allowed five runs with four walks in four innings of a 7-6 win at New York.
The Nationals, however, have batted .197 and scored 11 runs in losing four of their last six games.
Ryan Zimmerman, the team leader with 28 RBIs, is 4 for 25 over that stretch while stranding six runners and going 0 for 3 with them in scoring position.
The Nationals (29-30) had 10 hits - five doubles - Wednesday, but went 2 for 13 with four strikeouts with runners in scoring position to fall 10-1 to the Mets after taking the series opener 3-2 a day earlier.
New York halted a four-game slide Wednesday, and is trying to build momentum by giving Shaun Marcum (0-6, 5.71 ERA) his eighth chance at his first victory. His start to the season is the worst by a Met since Mike Pelfrey went 0-7 in 2007.
Marcum, though, isn't entirely to blame. The veteran right-hander has been backed by an average of 2.6 runs, and he didn't get any while allowing four runs in 6 2-3 innings of Friday's 5-1 loss at Miami.
Marcum is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 13 innings over two career starts against the Nationals.
Marlon Byrd is looking to build on his two homers and three RBIs from Wednesday. The right fielder is 7 for 19 (.368) with four homers while plating eight runs in seven road games.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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