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Nationals' Gio Gonzalez vs The Dodgers' Zack Greinke Tonight In D.C.

Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez and Los Angeles Dodgers' right-hander Zack Greinke have both been pitching well lately and they go head-to-head tonight in Nationals Park in the second game of LA's three-game visit to the nation's capital.

Patrick McDermott

Gio Gonzalez hasn't lost a start since May 27th when the Baltimore Orioles beat the Washington Nationals' 28-year-old left-hander in Nationals Park. Since then, the left-hander in his second year with the Nats has gone (4-0) in eight starts with the Nationals 5-3 with their 2012 21-game winner on the mound. In his first 11 starts leading up to and including the late-May loss to the O's, Gonzalez was (3-3) with a 3.90 ERA, 30 walks (4.17 BB/9) and 60 Ks (8.35 K/9) in 64 2/3 IP, over which he held opposing hitters to a .213/.301/.350 line. The Nationals were 7-4 with Gonzalez on the hill in the first two months of the season.

"We're certainly capable of pitching better, of hitting better and I think everybody is kind of primed and looking forward to the challenge of doing that..." - Davey Johnson on Nationals In 2nd "Half"

In 54 IP since his last loss, Gonzalez has a 2.00 ERA, 17 walks (2.83 BB/9) and 54 Ks (9.00 K/9). The opposition has a .201/.265/.330 line against the left-hander. Tonight he faces the LA Dodgers for the second time in his six-year MLB career. Gonzalez faced Los Angeles for the first time last season in Dodger Stadium, giving up three hits, five walks and two runs, both earned in 6.0 IP in a 2-0 loss.

Unfortunately for the Nationals, Los Angeles' right-hander Zack Greinke is on a bit of a roll too. Since his last loss, on June 16th in Pittsburgh, the 29-year-old right-hander is (5-0) in five starts with a 2.50 ERA, 12 walks (3.00 BB/9) and 33 Ks (8.25 K/9) in 36.0 IP in which opponents have put up a .208/.277/.336 line. Greinke's also (3-0) in three career starts against the Nationals with 2 HRs (0.93 HR/9) and 1 BB (0.47 BB/9) allowed and 19 Ks (8.84 K/9) collected in 19 1/3 IP against Washington.

After last night's loss, the Nationals fell to third place in the NL East behind the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves. The New York Mets did the Nats a favor this afternoon, beating the Phillies, 5-4, so the two teams are currently tied for third in the division, 7.0 games behind the Braves. Davey Johnson talked before last night's loss about how important the current 11-game homestand, which starts with the three-game set with LA, is to the defending NL East Champs.

"I look at it one day at a time," Johnson told reporters, "I was pleased with the way we finished up [the first "half"]. I mean, we swung the bats better. We hit the balls harder. We hit a lot of balls, with men on base, right on the button, right at people. But we're certainly capable of pitching better, of hitting better and I think everybody is kind of primed and looking forward to the challenge of doing that. If you're doing the things I know you're capable of doing, it doesn't matter to me whether we're home or on the road. You'll win ballgames. That's the challenge we've got in front us."

"We need to play good here," Johnson said. "We need to play good all the way, not just this coming homestand."

Taking the next two games from the Dodgers and winning the series would be a good start.