NEW YORK -- Gio Gonzalez was totally prepared to take on the New York Mets. A question about a possible Cy Young Award? That threw him.
Gonzalez earned his big league-leading 19th victory and the Washington Nationals backed him with three home runs to beat the listless Mets 5-1 Monday night.
Gonzalez is certainly a prime contender for the top pitching prize. But he playfully put up his hands when the subject was broached after the game.
"When you start looking at one thing, it'll drive you crazy," he said. "If it comes, it comes."
Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has 18 wins and a better ERA than Gonzalez, and starts against the Nationals on Tuesday night. Asked whether he was eager for Washington to face Dickey -- and perhaps dent his Cy Young chances -- manager Davey Johnson had a simple answer.
"Not really," he said.
Kurt Suzuki put the Nationals ahead with a home run right after catcher Kelly Shoppach dropped his wind-blown foul popup for an error. Ryan Zimmerman launched a two-run shot later in the third inning and Ian Desmond added a two-run drive in the fourth.
That was plenty for Gonzalez (19-7) and the team with the best record in the majors. The lefty gave up three hits over six innings, none until Scott Hairston homered in the fourth.
Gonzalez worked around five walks and extended his career high for wins. He seemed relaxed enough, chatting with fans in the front row while waiting in the on-deck circle in the sixth as Suzuki batted.
Gonzalez matched a season high for walks, yet lowered his ERA to 2.93.
"Couldn't find the strike zone," he said. "Drank a little too much coffee. I don't know what it was."
The Nationals opened a six-game swing that ends this weekend in Atlanta, where they'll play their closest pursuers in the NL East.
It had already been a jocular trip for the Nationals by the time they arrived in New York. As part of rookie hazing that is traditional in baseball culture, the club made its newcomers dress up as the U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics team -- including red leotards and gold medals -- for the train ride from Washington to Manhattan and dinner out Sunday night.
Teen star Bryce Harper wore the outfit, then had a wardrobe malfunction against the Mets. He broke his belt while diving for Andres Torres' liner in the fourth, and quickly hustled to the Nationals' bullpen in centre field for a loaner.
The Mets lost their fourth in a row, deepening their drought at Citi Field. They tied a team record by scoring three or fewer runs for the 11th straight game at home, matching the mark last done in 1979.
"I've done this long enough to know that you don't ever give up," manager Terry Collins said. "You don't ever stop, you don't ever stop grinding it out. You don't ever stop walking through the locker room every day making sure the guys are upbeat, that they're positive, trying to move forward. That doesn't change one bit."
David Wright and his teammates have gone 106 straight innings at home without scoring more than one run.
Collins tried a timing adjustment, changing when his starters took batting practice. He had them hit later, wanting to cut down the 2 1/2-hour gap between BP and game time.
"We're kind of grasping at straws," Collins admitted.
While Andy Murray was winning the U.S. Open tennis tournament right across the street, Mets rookie Collin McHugh (0-2) was serving up home runs. Suzuki hit his fourth, Zimmerman got his 21st and Desmond connected for his 22nd, all off the 25-year-old righty making his third major league start.
Zimmerman's shot was retrieved by a fan dressed in Mets orange who hopped onto the black batter's eye in dead centre field and danced with the souvenir, drawing cheers from the crowd.
NOTES: Dickey (18-4, 2.64 ERA) will oppose RHP Jordan Zimmermann (10-8, 2.99). ... Harper said he doesn't expect to start against Dickey -- the rookie is 0 for 10 with six strikeouts vs. the knuckleballer, no matter where he stands or what he swings. "In, out, up, down, back and forth, light, heavy, tried it all. Just can't hit the guy," Harper said. ... Gonzalez has beaten the Mets three times in the last two months. ... Zimmerman has a 14-game hitting streak. ... Washington is 12-4 against the Mets this year. ... Torres took away an extra-base hit from Danny Espinosa with a leaping grab.