Gio Gonzalez has the enormous task of following one of the best pitching performances in major league history.
The Washington Nationals left-hander was hardly at his sharpest in his latest outing but seeks a return to form Friday night against the Miami Marlins.
The Nationals (21-13) have gotten a day to revel in Max Scherzer's MLB record-tying 20 strikeouts in a 3-2 win against Detroit on Wednesday while preparing for the second series in their seven-game homestand.
Gonzalez (2-1, 2.19 ERA) will try to get this four-game set and Washington's third series against Miami this season off to a strong start by rebounding from his performance in Chicago on Saturday. He was charged with a season-high five runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, but avoided taking the loss in an 8-5 defeat.
Gonzalez, who had a 1.15 ERA in his first five starts, left with two runners on and both scored after he exited.
“It was tough for our bullpen,” he said. “I put them in a very tough situation. I should have done a better job finishing my job.”
Gonzalez is 6-3 with a 2.38 ERA in 10 career starts against the Marlins (18-15) but was 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA in his two matchups last season. He incurred most of that damage in a 6-2 loss in Miami on April 26, 2015, in which he gave up six runs and 10 hits in five innings.
Gonzalez is 4-1 with a 1.64 ERA in five home starts against Miami since joining the Nationals in 2012.
He will likely have Bryce Harper to support him in his first matchup with the Marlins this season. Harper was given a one-game suspension for his actions in a 5-4 victory against Detroit on Monday night but has appealed the penalty, leaving him still eligible to play.
Harper is 9 for 28 lifetime with six homers – his most against any pitcher – versus Tom Koehler (2-3, 5.83). He hit one of those in a 5-1 loss in Miami on April 21.
The Marlins right-hander gave up one other hit and one walk in his five innings in that game, but has been up and down in this early season. That was most evident in his past two starts.
Koehler gave up one run and two hits over seven innings in Saturday's 4-3 loss to Philadelphia after getting tagged for eight runs in 2 1/3 innings in a 14-5 drubbing in Milwaukee on May 1.
''(I) just tried to do everything that I had been doing and tried to get back to attacking the zone, getting into a good rhythm, work the game plan, and not try to get four outs with one pitch,” Koehler said.
Koehler is 1-1 with a 2.38 ERA in his two starts against Washington this season, and the NL East teams have split their six matchups.
The Marlins have won seven of eight on the road and concluded a 6-3 homestand Wednesday with a 3-2 victory against Milwaukee.
Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, currently batting a major league-best .409, is hitting .429 against the Marlins this season and has two singles in his three at-bats versus Koehler. He went 3 for 4 with two RBIs after being moved into the cleanup spot behind Harper and ahead of a struggling Ryan Zimmerman on Wednesday.
Ben Revere is 10 for 22 lifetime versus Koehler.
Ichiro Suzuki has faced Gonzalez more than any other batter, going 13 for 38. Christian Yelich is batting .455 in his last 10 games versus Washington, and Martin Prado is hitting .406 in his past nine.