On Saturday night at Marlins Park, Gonzalez returns to his hometown for the Nationals' second game in a four-game set against Miami. Gonzalez, whose only previous start against the Marlins was an eight-inning, one-hit outing in Oakland as a member of the Athletics on June 28, 2011, carries a 2.92 ERA and is tied for the National League lead with 12 wins.
After the Nats opened the series with a 5-1 win on Friday night, Gonzalez takes the mound four days after pitching a hitless inning in the All-Star Game. Though the 26-year-old lefty typically starts behind Nats ace Stephen Strasburg, manager Davey Johnson shuffled the rotation to account for the duo's All-Star action. Jordan Zimmermann started Friday's game, while Strasburg will take the mound on Sunday, followed by Edwin Jackson on Monday and Ross Detwiler on Tuesday.
"Hopefully the city of Hialeah comes out and supports me," Gonzalez said. "It's going to be exciting, just for the fact that it's going to be my first time pitching here in the stadium."
While the Nationals have thus far seized upon elevated preseason expectations, the Marlins have yet to do the same. At 41-45, Miami sits 10 games behind Washington in the NL East.
"I said since Spring Training how good they could be," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said of the Nats. "In Spring Training, a lot of people had a lot of question marks on a team like that. But when you have a pitching staff like that, and good athletes ... they're putting it together. They've got a couple of veteran guys. It doesn't surprise me at all with what they're doing right now."
The Marlins entered the series averaging 3.93 runs scored per game, fifth fewest in the National League, and they're missing Giancarlo Stanton, who's sidelined four to six weeks after last Sunday's arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his right knee. Stanton leads the Marlins with 19 home runs and 50 RBIs, but had to miss his first All-Star Game after feeling discomfort in his knee against the Brewers on July 2. On Friday, Stanton was already walking around without crutches.
Nationals: Desmond, Zimmerman continuing hot streaks
After his 2-for-4 night on Friday, Ian Desmond continues to lead the Nats with a .414 batting average in July. Ryan Zimmerman also went 3-for-4, and he leads the team with 11 RBIs this month.
Bryce Harper also extended his hitting streak to eight games on Friday, one shy of the career high he set in late May. During the month of July, Harper is hitting .324.
Marlins: Workhouse Buehrle takes the mound
As many innings as Gonzalez has pitched for the Nationals, Mark Buehrle has been even more of a workhouse for the Marlins. The left-hander leads Miami in innings pitched (113 2/3) and ERA (3.25), while his wins (eight) are tied with Ricky Nolasco for the team high. In Buehrle's last start in 101-degree heat in Milwaukee on July 5, he scattered six hits in 7 2/3 innings of scoreless ball while striking out eight Brewers and walking none.
Edward Mujica, on the disabled list with a broken right pinky toe, is pitching in rehab-assignment games at Class A Jupiter. The right-hander could return as early as Sunday.
Justin Ruggiano, who had a 10-game hitting streak snapped against the Cardinals on the Sunday before the All-Star break, singled in his first at-bat on Friday.
After Friday's game, the Nationals have 13 consecutive games against NL East opponents. At 17-9, the Nats have posted the best intradivisional record in the NL East.