WASHINGTON -- Left-hander Gio Gonzalez was shaky early and then ran into trouble in his final inning, which proved costly as the Mets defeated the Nationals, 6-1, at Nationals Park on Tuesday night.
New York was able to get to Gonzalez in the first two innings. After striking out Juan Lagares leading off, Gonzalez allowed a triple to Daniel Murphy. David Wright followed and singled to left field, scoring Murphy and giving New York a 1-0 lead.
In the following inning, Travis d'Arnaud led off with a double and, three batters later, Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler hit a broken-bat single to right field, scoring d'Arnaud.
Washington was able to get on the scoreboard in the second inning against Wheeler. After he walked the bases loaded, Wheeler threw a wild pitch, scoring Adam LaRoche.
Gonzalez settled down and retired 14 of 15 hitters. But things started to unravel in the seventh inning. After walking Chris Young and allowing an infield single to Ruben Tejada, Gonzalez was taken out of the game in favor of right-hander Drew Storen, who wasn't able to get the job done.
Wheeler advanced the runners on a sacrifice bunt before Storen hit Lagares with a pitch to load the bases. Murphy followed and singled up the middle past diving second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, scoring Young and Tejada.
"Murph is really swinging well this year," Nationals manager Matt Williams said.
After Wright struck out, Lucas Duda singled to left-center field, scoring Lagares. After the damage was done, Gonzalez wished that he wasn't taken out of the game. He was set to face Wheeler.
"I wanted to face the pitcher to at least get that out of the inning," Gonzalez said. "But I can only do my job as a pitcher, and that is go out there and minimize damage."
Wheeler lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on seven hits and striking out five batters. The Nationals had their chances to score more than one run off him but couldn't capitalize. Washington went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
"That's what we talk about when we bring up the fact that he's maturing, that he's really starting to figure out what it takes here," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Wheeler. "His command wasn't there at the beginning of the game, but he just continued to battle and stayed with it. He tried to make some big pitches and did. This kid has really, really gotten better. As he continues to improve, the sky's the limit."
Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth was impressed with the young Mets right-hander.
"That's the best that I've seen him," Werth said. "His velocity was a lot higher than I remember. He had a lot of life in his fastball. He was really throwing fastballs for the most part of the game. But we had our chances. I hit into a double play. Somebody else hit into a double play. We had opportunities. We had our chances, but for whatever reason, we didn't come through."
The Nationals had a chance for a big inning in the second. After LaRoche scored on the wild pitch, the Nationals had runners on second and third with one out when Jose Lobaton laced a sharp grounder that hit Cabrera, who was running toward third base. Cabrera was called out and Ian Desmond had to go back to third while Lobaton was credited with a hit.
The Mets added to their lead with right-hander Blake Treinen on the mound for Washington. With runners on first and second and one out in the eighth, pinch-hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis singled up the middle, scoring d'Arnaud.
The Nationals have lost two straight games and dropped their record to 60-51.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.