Gio Gonzalez has been looking a lot like the pitcher who claimed 21 victories last season. The only problem is, the Nationals have not provided enough support to get him in the win column.
Gonzalez will take the ball Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series against the D-backs at Nationals Park. The left-hander is looking for only his fourth win of the season and first since May 5 as he squares off against Trevor Cahill, his former A's teammate.
Gonzalez (3-3, 3.34 ERA) has made eight starts in that span, posting a 2.18 ERA and holding opponents to a .174 average while racking up 52 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings.
He has held the opposition to two earned runs or fewer in seven of those outings, including four in a row. On Wednesday at Philadelphia, he served up a two-run homer in the first inning but nothing else, striking out a season-high 11 in seven innings. The Nationals tied the game in the ninth inning and won in the 11th.
"The first inning was a little bumpy," catcher Kurt Suzuki, also a former A's player, said afterward. "He settled in and kept us in the ballgame, kept us around."
Gonzalez is only the first of three tough pitchers set to face the D-backs in this series, with Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg lined up for Wednesday and Thursday.
"Gonzalez, Strasburg and Zimmermann, they're bringing their 'A' game," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "We'll approach them just like we do every pitcher, we'll study them all the way out there and try to execute against them."
Will the D-backs try to work the count to drive up pitch counts and get into Washington's bullpen early?
"Yeah, but if they're throwing strikes and pounding the zone, you can't take them and get down in the count," Gibson said.
The Nationals once again find themselves on the wrong side of the .500 mark after consecutive losses to the Rockies. The National League West-leading D-backs had won four straight games before dropping their series finale against the Reds on Sunday.
They will turn to Cahill (3-8, 3.92), who is coming off an abbreviated start Wednesday against the Marlins. The right-hander was struck on the right hip by a line drive in the first inning and left with no outs in the secon as a precautionary measure.
"I thought I could get through it," Cahill said, "and they just didn't want to risk anything. It was sore, my stride was a lot shorter, but I felt like I could have made an adjustment and pitched through it."
Cahill comes in 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA over his past six starts.
D-backs: Hill set for return
Arizona expects to get a key cog in its lineup back Tuesday, with second baseman Aaron Hill scheduled to come off the disabled list. Hill has not played since April 14 because of a broken hand.
The 31-year-old is 11-for-36 (.306) with two home runs this year and is coming off a season that earned him an NL Silver Slugger Award. He batted .302 with 26 home runs, 85 RBIs and a .522 slugging percentage in 2012. Hill was not in the lineup Sunday at Triple-A Reno, where he had spent six games on a rehab assignment, going 9-for-24 (.375) with a double, a triple and six RBIs.
With Hill out, Willie Bloomquist and Cliff Pennington have been splitting time at second base for the D-backs.
Nationals: Werth exits early
Jayson Werth left Sunday's game in the fourth inning, and manager Davey Johnson said afterward that his right fielder sustained a pulled left groin. Werth had collected his second hit of the game but ran slowly to first and seemed to be trying to stretch his leg before he was replaced by pinch-runner Roger Bernadina.
The 34-year-old does not expect to need a stint on the disabled list and hopes to play Tuesday. He sat out Saturday's game with flu-like symptoms and believed dehydration might have led the muscle to cramp. Werth previously missed about a month with a strained hamstring, with an illness also potentially playing a role in that injury.
• Right-hander Dan Haren, whose ERA climbed to 6.15 with a rough outing Saturday, will be placed on the DL with shoulder stiffness. He will get an MRI exam, but the injury is not believed to be serious.
• This is the teams' first meeting of the season. The Nationals went 4-2 against the D-backs last year, including 2-1 at home.
• Arizona is embarking upon a 10-game East Coast trip, carrying a 20-18 road record this season.
• Gonzalez and Cahill were members of the A's starting rotation from 2009-11, before both were traded to their current clubs that offseason.