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Gio goes yard, and the distance, vs. Astros

When the first-place Nationals and Giants open a series on Monday in San Francisco, two of baseball's top starting rotations will meet with much more than bragging rights at stake.

The Nationals, whose rotation boasts an Major League-best 3.22 ERA, continue their road trip against the Giants, owners of the fifth-best starters' ERA at 3.55. But with both teams facing relentless pressure atop their respective divisions, the three games at AT&T Park figure to play prominently into the postseason picture. The Nats hold a 4 1/2-game lead over the Braves in the National League East, while the Giants are one game ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West after a come-from-behind win over the Rockies on Sunday.

"We think there's nothing we can do about it," Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "I don't want to see anybody change anything. I don't want us to start having to try to play harder or play better because the Braves are winning. If they happen to keep it going, then obviously we need to."

Nats lefty Gio Gonzalez and Giants righty Ryan Vogelsong will take the mound for the first of three outstanding pitching matchups, and both are coming off two of their best outings this season. In a 4-3 win over the Astros in Houston on Thursday, Gonzalez threw the first nine-inning complete game of his career and also added his first career home run with a two-run shot in the second inning. He allowed three runs on nine hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

"Gio couldn't have been any better," manager Davey Johnson said. "He pitched an outstanding ballgame. We hug a lot. I'm going to hug him more. My whole bullpen should hug him. What a great effort."

Vogelsong, meanwhile, threw seven innings of three-hit ball in a 15-0 win at the Cardinals on Wednesday in what was the third time this season the Giants have given Vogelsong at least 14 runs of support. San Francisco beat the Rockies, 16-4, in Vogelsong's start on Aug. 3, and also put together a 14-7 win over the Marlins on May 24. Vogelsong leads the NL with a 2.27 ERA, second in baseball behind Jered Weaver's 2.22 mark.

"I'm just going out there and trying to get outs, trying to go as deep as I can in the game," Vogelsong said.

On Tuesday, the Nats trot out Jordan Zimmermann against the Giants' Madison Bumgarner. In the series finale on Wednesday, Stephen Strasburg will square off against Tim Lincecum.

Nationals: Werth wasting no time settling in
After missing three months with a broken left wrist, Jayson Werth has quickly rediscovered his comfort zone at the plate. In the 11 games since returning on Aug. 2, Werth has batted .400 (14-for-35) with five RBIs. Werth has also continued his knack for getting on base, with seven walks.

Giants: Sandoval likely to return
After playing his third rehab game for Class A San Jose on Sunday, third baseman Pablo Sandoval could rejoin the Giants for Monday's opener. Sandoval was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 28 (retroactive to July 25) with a left hamstring strain, leaving the Giants without a critical piece of their infield. Sandoval is batting .299 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs.

Worth noting
• The Nationals have won 12 of their last 14 road contests and own the best road winning percentage (.639) in the Majors.

• The Giants are 7-10 in what will be a stretch of 20 games in 20 days.

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