Twins-Nationals Preview

Gio Gonzalez surely would have notched a win by now had he been backed by more than one run.

Bryce Harper has been producing at least one every day.

The reigning NL MVP can match a Washington Nationals record with an RBI in a ninth straight game Friday night and help Gonzalez become the last member of the rotation to get a victory as he faces the visiting Minnesota Twins.

Harper has homered in six of the past eight games while recording 17 RBIs, at least one in every game. The only longer RBI streak by a Nationals player since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005 was Ryan Zimmerman's nine-game run in September 2012.

“I'm just trying to have good at-bats,” he told MLB's official website. “I'm getting pitches to hit over the plate and sometimes hitting them and sometimes missing them, so I'm trying to be a little more patient.”

Harper hit his eighth home run Thursday to tie Colorado's Trevor Story for the major league lead, but the Nationals (11-4) had only one other hit in a 5-1 loss to Miami. Daniel Murphy had a 12-game hitting streak snapped as Washington capped a 4-3 road trip.

“We've just got to go home and regroup now, and come out swinging against Minnesota,” manager Dusty Baker said.

When he last appeared at home on April 14, the 23-year-old Harper became the eighth-youngest player to reach 100 home runs and did it with his first career grand slam. He had another Tuesday, part of his major league-best 22 RBIs.

Harper has driven in three of the four runs Washington (11-4) has scored in Gonzalez's two starts, but none of those RBIs came while the left-hander was in the game.

Gonzalez (0-0, 0.69 ERA) has yielded one run and seven hits through 13 innings against Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Showing better control under new pitching coach Mike Maddux has benefited the former 20-game winner, who has walked only three batters after issuing 3.54 per nine innings last year – fourth-worst in the NL.

Minnesota's Kyle Gibson (0-2, 3.57) has had similar control problems, with 3.01 walks per nine ranking 10th-worst in the AL last season.

The right-hander has been wild again this year with 10 walks in 13 innings, though he had only two Sunday and enjoyed his best performance. Gibson yielded two runs and four hits in seven innings of a 12-inning win over the Los Angeles Angels.

Joe Mauer is the only Minnesota player with more than five at-bats against Gonzalez, going 5 for 17 with two homers.

Mauer has reached base in all 16 games and is batting .339. The only other Twins regulars above .245 are Eduardo Escobar and Trevor Plouffe, who went on the disabled list Tuesday with a rib injury.

Miguel Sano hasn't moved into Plouffe's third-base spot even though that's his natural position. The 22-year-old remains in right field and is flourishing at the plate, batting .444 in the past five games. He homered and reached base five times in Thursday's 8-1 win in Milwaukee.

“I wouldn't feel overly comfortable sticking him (at third) just to play a game to give me a different outfield when he's taken 15 ground balls there this year,” manager Paul Molitor said. “If it were a longer deal (with Plouffe out), you'd have to consider it as an option.”

Sano isn't the only second-year Twins player who has gotten hot. Eddie Rosario homered in back-to-back games before going 4 for 4 on Thursday, helping the Twins (5-11) get their first road win after an 0-7 start.

The Nationals have won five straight at home.

These teams last met in 2013 when Minnesota lost two of three in Washington.