MIAMI -- Gio Gonzalez's homecoming Saturday night was spoiled by a fellow left-hander he considers to be one of the game's greats.
Pitching in his hometown for the first time in his career, Gonzalez was on the losing side of a pitching duel as the Nationals were unable to solve Miami lefty Mark Buehrle, dropping the second game of the four-game series, 2-1, to the Marlins in front of 28,707 at Marlins Park.
"It was great to be in front of friends and family the whole time," Gonzalez said. "The excitement is just one of those things you dream about. That was exactly how I felt."
Early on, the two-time All-Star pitched about as well as he could have dreamed. He keyed in on the strike zone and kept the Marlins off balance by executing his curveball masterfully.
Gonzalez was untouchable through the first three innings, sitting the Marlins down in order the first time through the lineup. He struck out Justin Ruggiano and Hanley Ramirez looking in the second, and then fanned the side in the third.
He couldn't keep the early success going, though.
The Marlins finally got their first baserunner in the fourth. After Jose Reyes lost a 13-pitch battle with Gonzalez to start the game, the Miami shortstop singled up the middle to lead off the fourth. A sacrifice bunt from Omar Infante moved Reyes to second, and he scored on Carlos Lee's single -- his first RBI as a Marlin.
"Old-fashioned National League ball," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "They bunted the guy over and the next guy delivered a hit. That wins you ballgames."
The Marlins repeated that formula the following inning, with an Emilio Bonifacio single, a Donovan Solano sacrifice bunt and a John Buck RBI base hit in the fifth.
"That's how baseball is," Gonzalez said. "You're going to have to beat guys like that. If you got speed, speed kills. That's what they were doing."
Gonzalez's night came to an end after six innings. He struck out nine -- the most since May 27 -- and walked none for the first time since April 12 against the Reds, his second start of the year.
"He was a little excited," Johnson said. "He's always a little excited, but he pitched a jewel here in his hometown."
While the Marlins were only able to muster two runs against Gonzalez, the Nationals were unable to capitalize against Miami's left-hander.
Buehrle stifled Washington's offense, allowing just one run in seven innings. The Nationals had baserunners in each of the first three frames -- a double in the first and leadoff singles in the second and third -- but were unable to convert.
"Obviously, going against this team and Gio, the way he's been throwing the ball all year, you have to be on top of your game," Buehrle said. "I go out there, try to throw as many zeroes as I could."
After Miami scored its first run, Washington answered back to tie the game in the top of the fifth. Ian Desmond slid head-first into first to beat a Lee tag attempt for a leadoff bunt single. Desmond then stole second -- despite being hit by Lee's throw -- and he came around to score on a Jesus Flores single.
Washington had a chance to take the lead, but with runners on first and second and no outs, Gonzalez tried a sacrifice bunt, only to have Buehrle, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, field it and get the lead runner at third.
"Buehrle's a Gold Glover for a reason," Gonzalez said. "The guy goes out there and he makes great plays. I made a great bunt, he made a great play. Sometimes that's just how it's going to work."
Three batters later, Buehrle got Ryan Zimmerman to strike out with the bases loaded to end the frame. It was one of seven strikeouts for Buehrle, who has fanned at least seven in four straight starts.
The Nationals had another opportunity to tie the game in the seventh, but with pinch-runner Roger Bernadina at third with two outs, Buehrle struck out Danny Espinosa looking to preserve the Marlins' lead.
Buehrle's efforts were enough, as right-handed reliever Steve Cishek recorded a five-out save, stranding the would-be-tying run at second by striking out Flores to end the game.
"It's a shame," Johnson said. "Gio pitched a heck of a ballgame. We had many opportunities out there. We just couldn't get it."
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.