WASHINGTON -- That was not the "first" that Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals were hoping for on Thursday.
Gonzalez, squaring off against fellow 12-game winner R.A. Dickey, had the opportunity to become the first pitcher in the National League to reach 13 wins and send the Mets home with a sweep.
But the left-hander allowed a season-high six earned runs in the shortest outing of the year (3 1/3 innings), leading to a 9-5 loss that got out of hand early.
"Just felt a little flat," Gonzalez said. "Nothing was moving too much. They did a great job attacking me right off the bat. They were swinging aggressively and going after me right off the bat. Make better pitches, get better outs."
Gonzalez was without command of his arsenal from the onset, and the Mets made him pay each step of the way. New York scored all nine of its runs in the first four innings -- three were charged to Craig Stammen, who also worked 3 1/3 innings in relief -- with Mets All-Star David Wright doing most of the damage.
The third baseman hit two home runs, one off Gonzalez and one off Stammen, for his first multi-homer game of the year and 18th of his career. He notched five RBIs, and first baseman Ike Davis, 2-for-4 with a run, also drove in two.
Dickey, meanwhile, again dazzled the Nats through most of the game and joined Tampa Bay's David Price atop baseball's wins list. The knuckleballer has handled the Nationals' lineup in two meetings this season, combining to strike out 13 and scatter four earned runs over 14 2/3 innings in two victories.
"Gio's a good pitcher," Dickey said. "So going into the game, you think, 'OK, I might get two or three, but I'm not going to get any more than that.' As a pitcher, you know that you're going to have to be on point. So to get an early lead in the first was nice."
Dickey surrendered a solo home run to Ryan Zimmerman in the first -- Zimmerman was 2-for-2 before sitting the final three innings -- and two RBIs to Michael Morse, who had a sacrifice fly in the sixth and an RBI double in the eighth. Morse also scored in the eighth on a Wright throwing error, and Mark DeRosa scored the team's fifth run of the game on an infield grounder in the ninth.
"We fought back, even without our best guys out there, which is a good sign," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "We had some good at-bats coming down the stretch there. They changed pitchers like 4-5 times ... for them to do that, they obviously respect us enough to know we're never out of the game."
Gonzalez began his first season in a Nationals uniform with a pristine 7-1 record and 2.04 ERA. But, though he has continued to reel off wins, teams have become more productive against him.
Since the beginning of June, his ERA has risen from 2.04 to 3.32, the highest since he had a 3.38 ERA after his second start of the season. Historically, his success has deteriorated as the year goes on, as his 3.28 career ERA in the first half and 4.46 mark in the second indicate.
"You gotta learn you're gonna hit some patches once in a while," Gonzalez said. "Especially a good team like that, where they swing the bat and they do a great job doing it."
The Nats still earned the series victory against their division rivals and are now 7-1-2 in series within the the NL East this season. Such prowess will be put to the test this weekend, when the second-place Braves come to town for four games in three days.
Desmond is expected to rejoin the starting lineup on Friday after missing five straight starts to nurse a sore oblique that has been nagging at him since early in the year. Reliever Drew Storen also returned Thursday, tossing a perfect 1-2-3 ninth inning in his 2012 debut.
"These guys are a very, very good team," Wright said of the Nationals. "They don't have any glaring weaknesses. The rotation, bullpen, offensively -- and they're just getting better with these players. They're getting healthy with Storen coming back and I heard Werth, and Desi's, I think, close. When these guys get back, they're getting All-Star caliber players at a time when they're already winning the division. They're going to be tough."