NEW YORK Another road trip began badly and another start on the road by pitcher Gio Gonzalez ended with a loss on Friday night in the Big Apple.
The Nationals fading playoff hopes took another hit from a losing club, as journeyman pitcher Jason Vargas tossed six shutout innings and the lowly New York Mets beat Washington 3-0. The Nationals lost two of three last weekend to the last-place Marlins.
The third-place Nationals, now 64-65, entered Friday 8 games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves and 5 games behind the second-place Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East. It was the 13th time this year the Nationals have been shut out, and the second straight day.
Wilmer Flores of the Mets (57-71) had an RBI single in the first for a 1-0 lead. His hit scored Amed Rosario, who led off with a line single that fell in front of Harper. Rosario stole second, went to third on a groundout and scored on the Flores single for the only run against Gonzalez (7-11).
Jay Bruce of the Mets hit a two-run homer off reliever Tim Collins in the eighth for a 3-0 lead. Collins had just come in to pitch for Koda Glover, who took over for Gonzalez in the eighth.
The Nationals had no answer for Vargas, 35, who entered the game with an ERA of 7.67 this season and had not faced the Nationals in 12 years. But he gave up just three hits and fanned a season-high eight batters.
In the fourth inning he struck out all three batters in the heart of the order Bryce Harper, Juan Soto and Ryan Zimmerman. Vargas also fanned the side in the fifth after giving up a leadoff single to Matt Wieters.
The sixth inning was particularly frustrating for the Nationals, as Trea Turner lined out, Anthony Rendon had a ball caught on the warning track and Harper lined out into the shift against Vargas (4-8).
Zimmerman was retired to end the game with Rendon on second after his double.
It was the first outing in a six-game road trip that continues Monday in Philadelphia.
The previous road trip was a disaster, as the Nationals went 2-5 in Chicago and St. Louis. That helped fuel the decision of the front office to trade veteran hitters Daniel Murphy, a former Met, and Matt Adams on Tuesday.
Another trend continued as Gonzalez failed to win away from Nationals Park.
Gonzalez has not posted a victory on the road since May 28 at Baltimore. The veteran lefty has always owned the Mets. He was 15-5 with an ERA of 2.90 in 23 starts beforeFriday, with a record of 11-1 and an ERA of 1.78 in New York.
Gonzalez, who allowed one run and seven hits in seven innings, was hit on the left foot on a liner off the bat of Austin Jackson in the last of the sixth. Jackson reached on a fielder’s choice and Gonzalez stayed in the game. Gonzalez hobbled around the mound in the seventh but finished the frame.
The Washington rotation did get some good news as Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Friday that pitcher Stephen Strasburg is slated to make his regular start early next week against the Phillies.
Strasburg returned from the disabled list and went four innings against the Phillies on Wednesday. “He said he felt good,” Martinez told reporters in New York. “So he’s scheduled to pitch when his turn comes up again.”
NOTES: Washington’s Tanner Roark (8-12, 4.05) is slated to start Saturday at 4:05 p.m.while fellow right-hander Zack Wheeler (8-6, 3.63) will go for the Mets ... The Nationals entered Friday 13-21 in one-run games and 13-22 against left-handed starting pitchers.