NEW YORK -- From where Gio Gonzalez stood the last time he was on a mound for the Nationals, he really had no place to go but up. Given that standard, Tuesday he went through the roof.
The Washington lefty came out with something to prove against the Mets, the same team that roughed him up for a season-high six runs in 3 1/3 innings last Thursday, and the All-Star lefty held New York to two hits in a dominant 5-2 Washington victory.
After knuckleballer R.A. Dickey got the best of Gonzalez last week, the Nats' southpaw got the last laugh on Tuesday. Both hurlers now have 13 wins, tied for the Major League lead. It was just Dickey's second loss of the season, and first since April 18.
"They roughed [Gio] up over at our place, but he pitched a masterpiece [tonight]," manager Davey Johnson said. "He was dominant from the first pitch on."
Nationals catcher Jesus Flores said he and Gonzalez adapted their game plan based on last Thursday's game and, like Johnson, the catcher could sense that Gonzalez was primed for the rematch.
"We were really on a good page, and we were really positive tonight that he was going to do well," Flores said. "I could tell from the bullpen, the way he was acting and the way he commanded his pitches in the bullpen, he was on tonight."
Gonzalez's only hiccup came in the second inning, when shortstop Danny Espinosa made a throwing error on a Scott Hairston grounder. Hairston stole second and scored on a Ronny Cedeno single, giving New York an early 1-0 lead.
But Dickey, who has a 5.36 ERA over his last seven games, couldn't hold the slight advantage. Washington tied the ballgame in the fourth with doubles from Ryan Zimmerman and Espinosa, before blowing it open in the sixth.
That crucial inning included three sharply hit balls and one that hardly made it beyond the pitcher's mound. After Michael Morse singled -- just the third hit off Dickey at that point -- Adam LaRoche blasted an 0-1 knuckleball into the upper deck in right field for a two-run homer and 3-1 lead.
LaRoche credited one adjustment for his long ball -- a lighter bat that he used after going 0-for-2 against Dickey on Thursday.
"I've been using a heavier bat, and obviously it hasn't been working against Dickey," LaRoche said. "So I figured it was time to try something new. It was actually [Ian Desmond's] idea. He said, 'Take the lighter bat up there and you'll have a chance to move it a little bit as the pitch is coming,' is what the theory was. So I bought into it."
It worked for LaRoche and helped keep the two-out rally going. Espinosa, 2-for-4 on the night and now 17-for-40 (.425) over a 10-game hit streak, singled in the next at-bat before Roger Bernadina also singled on a slow dribbler that was caught in no-man's land between the mound and first base.
After Dickey and Ike Davis couldn't make the play, Flores made the Mets pay with a sharply hit single to left. Espinosa scored easily and Bernadina also came around when Jason Bay's throw from left got by catcher Mike Nickeas, making it 5-1 in favor of Washington.
That was the end for Dickey, who left after allowing eight hits and five runs (four earned) in six innings.
"There's a lot on his shoulders right now," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "With Johan being out, he's the guy. He's the guy. That's a big responsibility. He's pitched so great all year long, but with what's going on right now, he kept us in there. The one inning, those two add-on runs when the throw gets by the catcher at home plate, those runs hurt us. We have to rally around. We have to reach down inside and find out what we're made of. We had an easy run the first half, now we have to grind it out."
Gonzalez, meanwhile, faced just 25 hitters through seven innings and needed only 87 pitches to do so.
"I think it was just one of those things where you want to bounce back," Gonzalez said. "You want to bounce back as a pitcher. You don't want to feel down and out. These guys came up to me and gave me some positive energy, positive feedback. I wanted to go out there and give them everything I can."
The Mets have lost five in a row and 11 of their last 12 to drop to 10 1/2 games behind first place Washington, which is now 18 games above .500. The Nats secured yet another series victory and moved to 9-1-3 in series against the National League East this season.
"We're going out there with the mentality that if we do what we do, our pitchers continue to do their thing, we're more than likely going to win the game," LaRoche said.