NEW YORK -- Visits to Citi Field usually turn out well for Giovany Gonzalez (Double G). He pitches well. The Nationals win.
Gonzalez pitched well Friday, allowing the Mets just one run in seven innings. The Nationals did not win.
:: Players' Weekend presented by Valspar Stain ::
A day after they couldn't score against Aaron Nola, one of the best pitchers in the National League, the Nats had no better luck against Jason Vargas (Vargy), the Mets' left-hander who came into the night with a 7.67 ERA. The one run Gonzalez allowed in the first inning would have been enough to beat him, and the Mets came away with a 3-0 win on the first night of Players' Weekend.
"It was just one of those games," Gonzalez said. "I'm happy to turn things around, but I wish I could have been better."
In reality, Gonzalez was very good Friday, just as he usually is at Citi Field. He went to the mound with a 1.78 ERA in 16 career starts at the Mets' home, and seven innings later he had lowered it to 1.75.
• Shop for Players' Weekend Gear | Nats' nicknames for Players' Weekend
He even survived a sixth-inning Austin Jackson line drive that caromed off his left ankle. Gonzalez was limping noticeably as he left the mound and was still limping after the game.
"It's a little bit tender," he said. "I was just thinking, 'Gotta finish this inning. Gotta finish this inning.'"
The Nationals' hitters were thinking they needed to lay off the Vargas changeups that dropped out of the strike zone, but they had trouble doing it. They had just three hits in six innings against the Mets' starter and just four hits overall, and never advanced a runner past second base.
Vargas struck out eight, his highest total for a game since April 2017.
After two wins against the Phillies to start this week, the Nationals have been shut out in back-to-back games to fall back under .500, at 64-65. And after beating up on Jonathan Lester in a 9-4 win Aug. 11 in Chicago, they've lost each of the past four times they've faced a left-handed starter, scoring just three runs in 24 2/3 innings against Cole Hamels, Austin Gomber, Wei-Yin Chen and Vargas.
For the season, Washington is now 13-23 when the opponent starts a lefty.
"When we face guys who throw a good changeup left-handed, we struggle," manager Dave Martinez admitted.
• Velo issue won't cause Stras to miss a start
Even with those struggles at the plate, Gonzalez gave the Nationals a chance to win Friday. It was a 1-0 game until Jay Bruce (Bruuuce) hit a two-run home run off Tim Collins in the eighth.
Gonzalez, whose August ERA was 8.84 in four starts before Friday, was pleased to pitch well even though he was disappointed with the result.
"I believe I can pitch and pitch against the best," he said. "I know I can pitch better than I have been."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Gonzalez got out of the fifth inning with the help of an unusual double play. After Jeff McNeil (JT) reached base on a one-out single, Wilmer Flores (Catire) flied out to left. McNeil, who was going on the pitch, stepped past second base and didn't retouch it on the way back to first. Realizing that, the Nationals had left fielder Juan Soto (Juanjo) throw the ball to second baseman Wilmer Difo (El De), who touched the base for the final out of the inning.
Gonzalez said catcher Matt Wieters (Maui) gets credit for paying attention, and for yelling to Difo to touch second base.
HE SAID IT
"It's a great ballpark. I have this kind of feel for pitching here." -- Gonzalez, on Citi Field
Right-hander Tanner Roark (8-12, 4.05 ERA) will try to continue a strong run that has seen him go 5-0 with a 1.63 ERA in his last six starts when he faces the Mets on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET at Citi Field. Right-hander Zack Wheeler (8-6, 3.63 ERA), who is just 3-8 in 12 career starts against the Nationals, will be on the mound for the Mets.