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NYM@WSH: Harper launches a solo smash to the seats

WASHINGTON -- After a 2-hour and 26-minute rain delay on Sunday afternoon, Gio Gonzalez ended up having a game he'll likely never forget. He won his 16th game of the season -- a team record -- as the Nationals defeated the Mets, 5-2.

The Nationals improved their record to 75-46 and now have a five-game lead over the Braves, who were blanked by Dodgers, 5-0, on Sunday. The Nationals next play the Braves in an important three-game series beginning Monday at Nationals Park.

"Sure, we pay attention to Atlanta, but we are concentrating on what we have at hand," manager Davey Johnson said. "I think the guys have been looking forward to the Braves to come in. They know us and we know them. ... They are little bit different, but basically the same."

Gonzalez is the reason the Nationals were able to increase their lead in the standings. He lasted 5 2/3 innings and allowed one run on seven hits. The run scored in the sixth inning, when Ike Davis scored on a groundout by Jason Bay. He exited after throwing 110 pitches, too many of them up in the zone. His 16th victory broke the team record set by Livan Hernandez in 2005, when he won 15 games.

Gonzalez is tied with Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto and Tampa Bay's David Price for the most wins in the Majors.

"That wasn't pretty, but it was a win," Johnson said. "Gio was having the ball up all day long. He was a little wild, but his hitting was better [Gonzalez went 1-for-2 during the game]. I didn't plan to go get him in the [sixth] inning."

The rain delay didn't help Gonzalez. He was ready for a 1:35 p.m. ET game. Then he was told the game would start at 3:15. The game didn't start until 45 minutes later, but he still managed to pick up the win.

"This is definitely a team accomplishment," Gonzalez said about the victory. "I couldn't have done this without them. The bullpen has been our biggest key, and I said it since the beginning: These guys come and clean up our mess. They are constantly working hard for us.

"But the offense was unbelievable, and the defense has been incredible. We are playing Nationals baseball, and it has been fun watching."

Gonzalez was given the lead in the second inning. Michael Morse led off with a single against Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner, and then scored on a two-run homer by Danny Espinosa.

Washington added two more runs an inning later off Hefner. Jayson Werth scored on a triple by Bryce Harper, who would later score on a single by Ryan Zimmerman.

Harper would add to the lead by hitting a solo home run, his 12th long ball of the season, over the right-field wall in the fifth inning.

"I know Hef was ready to pitch, he just made some mistakes in the middle of the plate," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Johnson said Harper was trying to send him a message to not bench the rookie like the skipper did on Saturday. Since the All-Star break, Harper is hitting below .200, and Johnson decided to give Harper the day off Saturday and put Tyler Moore in the lineup. According to Johnson, Harper was not happy about sitting on the bench that day.

"He is always swinging the bat well. I just think sometimes, he is just frustrated and gets over-aggressive," Johnson said. "He is a special talent. That ball today, I don't how far it went, but he crushed it. I haven't seen a ball hit that hard."

After Gonzalez left the game, relievers Craig Stammen, Michael Gonzalez and Tyler Clippard combined to allow a run over 3 2/3 innings.

"The bullpen held in there, and that was a good win," Johnson said.

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