Instant analysis: Nats 5, Mets 1

Instant analysis: Nats 5, Mets 1
September 11, 2012, 2:12 am
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Game in a nutshell: Looking to bounce back from a rough weekend against the Marlins, the Nationals didn't waste much time pouncing on Collin McHugh. They roughed up the Mets rookie right-hander for three homers during an eight-batter span in the third and fourth innings, jumping out to a 5-1 lead. They actually were held hit-less by the New York bullpen after that, but rode Gio Gonzalez's effective start and scoreless innings of relief from Ryan Mattheus, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard to secure a fairly easy victory. Gonzalez became the majors' first 19-game winner, and the Nationals opened a six-game road trip in strong fashion. Their magic number for the NL East is down to 16; their magic number for the final wild card berth is 9.
Hitting highlight: The Nationals' scoring barrage took a break yesterday, but it was back in full force for the opener of this series. They blasted three homers -- Kurt Suzuki's solo shot in the third, Ryan Zimmerman's two-run shot a few batters later, Ian Desmond's two-run shot in the fourth -- and none was a cheapie. Desmond's was especially impressive, a real clout into one of the bullpens in right field. It was only the latest example of the shortstop's newfound stroke to the opposite field: Seven of his 22 homers this season have been hit to the right of straightaway center. Only one of Desmond' 22 career homers prior to 2012 was hit in that direction.
Pitching highlight: It looked like it might be a long night for Gonzalez when he walked his first batter of the night, then issued another free pass to David Wright moments later. And truth be told, the left-hander wasn't sharp at all. He wound up walking five and throwing only 58 of his 104 pitches for strikes. But he did come through with big pitches when he needed them and wound up with strong overall results: one run allowed on three hits over six innings. The only real blemish on his pitching line: Scott Hairston's solo homer in the fourth. Gonzalez's quality start proved more than enough to earn him win No. 19 on the season, making him the first MLB pitcher to reach that milepost in 2012.
Key stat: Desmond's 22 homers this season are the most ever by a Washington middle infielder, a span that includes the 1901-71 Senators and the 2005-present Nationals.
Up next: Gonzalez became the majors' first 19-game winner tonight. New York's R.A. Dickey will try to join him tomorrow. The knuckleballer goes up against Jordan Zimmermann at 7:10 p.m. in a matchup of two of the best right-handers in the NL this season.