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MIAMI (AP) – The Washington Nationals’ pitching staff has been outstanding this season.
Newcomer Gio Gonzalez has played a big part in that.
The South Florida native will look to extend his 14-inning scoreless streak at Nationals Park on Sunday when NL East-leading Washington tries to end an 11-game homestand with its first sweep of the Miami Marlins in three seasons.
With Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg each going six scoreless innings to begin this three-game set, Nationals starters have not allowed a run in the last 16 frames and own a major league-best 1.82 ERA.
Gonzalez (1-0, 2.04 ERA) will try to help Washington (12-4) match its best 17-game start in 31 years following Saturday’s 3-2, 10-inning victory.
Acquired from Oakland in the offseason, the left-hander has surrendered two hits in seven shutout innings in each of his last two starts – both at home.
The franchise’s last pitcher to throw consecutive games of at least seven innings with two or fewer hits allowed was Montreal Expo Floyd Youmans on Sept. 2 and 7, 1986.
Gonzalez has only issued two walks over the past two outings after yielding three in 3 2-3 innings in his NL debut. He had a major league-high 91 free passes in 2011.
“I want to avoid the walks, let these guys put the ball in play,” Gonzalez told the Nationals’ official website following Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Houston.
The Marlins didn’t get a runner past first base the only time they faced Gonzalez. The native of Hialeah, gave up one hit in eight innings of a 1-0 Athletics victory on June 28. It’s the only time Gonzalez has lasted eight innings with fewer than two hits allowed.
He’ll face a Marlins team that’s hitting .154 (10 for 65) with two runs in this series. Those came on Logan Morrison’s game-tying two-run homer in the ninth inning off Brad Lidge on Saturday that ended Miami’s 22-inning scoreless streak.
It was just the third home run allowed by Nationals pitching.
“We’re going to hit, we’re going to do the little things,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. “Things will come around for us.”
Miami (7-8) will try to avoid getting swept in this divisional series for the first time since Aug. 4-6, 2009, with Josh Johnson (0-2, 5.94) on the mound.
The Marlins ace had his best start of the season Tuesday, throwing seven strong innings in a 5-2 home win over the Cubs.
Opponents are batting .400 off Johnson, but the right-hander is 7-0 with a 3.22 ERA in 14 career starts versus Washington.
Johnson won’t have to face third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who will get a second straight day off due to mild right shoulder inflammation.
However, Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche – the team leader with 13 RBIs – should return to the lineup after getting a break Saturday and being used as a pinch hitter.
Shortstop Ian Desmond is tied with LaRoche with a team-high two home runs after going deep Saturday. Desmond also knocked in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly.
Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth broke an 0-for-11 skid with his first homer of the season Saturday, yet he’s still batting .400 (18 for 45) as Washington has won 10 of 12.
Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Gaby Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton are all hitless in three at-bats against Gonzalez.
The Marlins have lost three straight in Washington after winning 13 of 14 there.
(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)