Washington (49-34) at Miami (41-44), 7:10 p.m. EDT
Gio Gonzalez has been phenomenal in his first season in Washington, earning an All-Star selection while helping the Nationals to the top of the NL East.
Mark Buehrle hasn’t been quite as sharp in his first season with the Miami Marlins, but he is showing signs of turning things around.
Gonzalez looks to win his fifth straight start Saturday night in Miami, where Buehrle tries to help the Marlins avoid a four-game losing streak and win his fourth consecutive start.
The Nationals (50-34) opened the second half of the season with Friday’s 5-1 win over the Marlins (41-45) for their sixth victory in eight games. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche looked particularly refreshed after the break, with Zimmerman going 3 for 4 with a two-run homer and LaRoche finishing 3 for 4 with two runs.
“Getting the rest kind of helped everyone,” said Zimmerman, who has been dealing with a bothersome right shoulder and was 3 for 16 heading into the break.
With a win Saturday, the Nationals would move 17 games over .500 for the first time since July 9, 2005. They seem to have a good shot at reaching that high-water mark – they’re 14-3 in Gonzalez’s starts.
Obtained in an offseason trade with Oakland, Gonzalez (12-3, 2.92 ERA) has pitched better than most expected. He is tied with the New York Mets’ R.A. Dickey for the major league lead in victories and his 10.45 strikeouts per nine innings are third-best in baseball. The left-hander made his second All-Star appearance Tuesday, throwing 11 pitches in a 1-2-3 third inning in the NL’s 8-0 win.
“He’s certainly been stingy giving up runs and hits here,” Davey Johnson said after Gonzalez allowed one run and three hits in six innings in a 4-1 win over Colorado on July 7.
Gonzalez’s last win marked his fourth in as many starts, and he won five in a row May 5-27.
Buehrle (8-8, 3.25), who signed as a free agent with Miami in December after spending the first 12 seasons of his career with the Chicago White Sox, is trying to win four consecutive starts for the first time since reeling off five in a row in the spring of 2009. His current run comes on the heels of a four-start losing streak in which he posted a 5.48 ERA. The lefty had a 0.83 ERA in his final three games before the break.
His last outing may have been his best in a Marlins uniform, as he scattered six hits and struck out a season-high eight without issuing a walk in 7 2-3 innings of a 4-0 win over Milwaukee on July 5.
While Buehrle appears on track, Miami’s biggest concern is an offense that has plated seven runs while batting .202 during a three-game skid. Not helping matters is the Marlins – 10 games back of Washington – are expected to be without Giancarlo Stanton (right knee surgery) for the foreseeable future after placing him on the 15-day disabled list Friday.
“Why wouldn’t we be optimistic?”‘ catcher John Buck said. “We’ve got a good club. We haven’t played well. We’ve underachieved. Do we make it hard on ourselves? Yes, but we’ve got a good enough team.”
The Marlins could be in line for another tough game against Gonzalez, who had perhaps the best start of his career against the Marlins on June 28, 2011, permitting one hit while striking out nine over eight innings in a 1-0 win.
This will be Buehrle’s first start against the Washington franchise since being tagged for seven runs in a loss in Montreal in 2004.