Game in a nutshell: A couple of 12-game winners and All-Stars opposing each other on the mound? Sounds like a great pitchers' duel, right? Well, not entirely. R.A. Dickey held up his part of the bargain, tossing 7 13 strong innings. Gio Gonzalez, however, labored through his worst start of the season. The lefty was tagged for six earned runs in only 3 13 innings, three of those runs scoring on homers. And the Mets weren't done raking at the plate. David Wright crushed a three-run blast off Craig Stammen in the fourth, his second home run of the afternoon. Trailing 9-1 after that, the Nationals just played out the string, though there was an encouraging sight at day's end: Drew Storen made his season debut, tossing a 1-2-3 ninth and hitting 93 mph with his fastball.
Hitting highlight: Tough to find many offensive highlights when you're down 9-1 in the sixth inning, but how about some recognition for Sandy Leon. The poor guy's big-league debut in May didn't even last four innings before he suffered a high ankle sprain on a collision at the plate. He finally returned today and wound up recording his first career hit in the process: a single off Dickey to lead off the seventh inning. GM Mike Rizzo espoused confidence earlier today in Leon, who may get his share of time behind the plate as the Nationals try to give Jesus Flores some more breathers before the stretch run. If he can produce the occasional hit at the plate, that will help his cause for playing time.
Pitching lowlight: Gonzalez clearly didn't have it from the moment he took the mound. Three batters into his afternoon, he grooved a first-pitch fastball to Wright, who belted it to left for a two-run homer. Ike Davis added a solo blast to lead off the second, and it just continued to go downhill from there. Gonzalez had all sorts of trouble locating his fastball, leading to three walks. And those pitches that did find the strike zone were hammered. After allowing one homer in his first 14 starts this season, he's now served up five over his last five outings. Cause for concern? Not yet. But Gio has not been the same pitcher over the last month he was through the season's first 2 12 months.
Key stat: At 3.32, Gonzalez's ERA is now at its highest point since April 12 (when it sat at 3.38 following his second start of the season).
Up next: Biggest series of the year upcoming? You could make a case for it as the second-place Braves (who now trail the Nationals by 3 12 games) come to D.C. for a four-games-in-three-days showdown. Stephen Strasburg and Tommy Hanson get things started at 7:05 p.m. Friday.