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WSH@STL: Gonzalez strikes out four over five innings

Though he has won 32 games for the Nationals in the last two years, left-hander Gio Gonzalez wants to improve on the little things that can help a team win. For example, he would like to get better at covering first base. At times last season, that was a serious problem.

First there was the Aug. 14 game against the Giants. During the Nationals' 4-2 victory, Gonzalez found himself in a heated argument with right fielder Jayson Werth in the middle of the first inning.

Werth was upset that Gonzalez didn't reach in time for a potential inning-ending double play after Buster Posey hit a grounder to Adam LaRoche at first base.

"It was another reminder," Gonzalez said about the incident.

But it wasn't until Sept. 9 when he realized that he wasn't doing the little things right. That was the day he threw a one-hitter against the Mets. The lone hit came in the seventh inning, when Zach Lutz hit the ball past LaRoche for a clean single. As the ball went by LaRoche, Gonzalez stood on the mound, not even thinking that he should cover in case LaRoche was able to grab the ball.

Gonzalez called that moment a reality check, and he hopes he can do those little things against the Mets on Wednesday.

The Nationals will be facing Bartolo Colon for the first time since June 15, 2005, when he was a member of the Angels. The Nationals won that game, 1-0, on a home run by Brian Schneider in the sixth inning. Colon ended up going the distance in the loss.

Colon has faced the Nationals twice in his career and allowed three runs in 17 innings. He is 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA in those games.

He is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, having gone 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA with the Athletics in 2013. He tied for the American League lead in shutouts and ranked third in run support.

Mets: Murphy, Young could both return
The Mets hope to have both second baseman Daniel Murphy and outfielder Chris Young back in time for Wednesday's game. Murphy was away from the team for the season opener because his wife went into labor, and Young missed the game with a sore right quad.

With those two back, the Mets will need to decide whether to play Juan Lagares or Eric Young Jr. in the outfield. Chris Young and Curtis Granderson are assured spots there most days, at least for now, and with the Nationals starting a left-hander, Lagares is the most likely candidate to round out the trio.

Josh Satin could also earn a start at first base against the lefty Gonzalez.

Nationals: Barrett makes the difference
Wednesday's game could come down to a battle of the bullpens, like it did during the Nationals' 9-7 victory on Monday afternoon.

Washington's bullpen allowed three runs in four innings; New York's relievers allowed five runs 3 1/3 innings.  

The Nationals were able to get a key inning from right-hander Aaron Barrett, who made his Major League debut in the ninth. He pitched one shutout inning and struck out two.

Barrett's reaction to his first big league performance was similar to when he was told that he was on the 25-man roster. He earned the victory in front of family members, including his parents, Dave and Jackie; wife, Kendyl; brother, Ryan; and sister-in-law, Ashley.

"Today was one of those moments that I've dreamed about -- over and over," said Barrett. "It definitely lived up to expectations. I think I'm finally taking a deep break and finally realizing that just happened to us. It's everything I could imagine for my debut. That was unbelievable."

Before he started throwing his warmup pitches, Ian Desmond and LaRoche told him to enjoy the moment.

"I tried to take deep breaths and tried to do what I'm capable of doing, and that's control what I can control -- win every single pitch. I tried to use that mentality. Enjoyed every second of it," Barrett said.

Worth noting
• The Mets' bullpen had 31 losses last year, tied for the fifth most in baseball.

• The Nationals had 36 comeback wins in 2013.

• Mets outfielder Andrew Brown homered in his first at-bat of the season. He is the first member of the Mets to homer in his first at-bat since David Wright in 2010, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

• Nats right-hander Stephen Strasburg struck out 10, which tied a Montreal/Washington franchise record for Opening Day. Steve Rogers fanned 10 on April 9, 1982. Comments