NEW YORK -- Asked late Wednesday night about his success at Citi Field following yet another impressive start against the New York Mets, Washington Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez offered up a well-rehearsed answer in which he thanked the pitchers that followed him, his catchers and the lineup that offered up plenty of run support.
But Nationals relievers, catchers and hitters can't be solely responsible for Gonzalez's Bob Gibson-ian ERA at Citi Field, can they?
"I mean, great atmosphere, the fans are coming in, it's fun to see these guys cheering," Gonzalez said after he allowed one run on five hits and one walk while striking out five over 6 1/3 innings to earn the win in the Nationals' 7-1 victory. "Feels good outside, it was nice cool air.
"Don't know. I really don't have an answer for what's going on here."
Neither do the Mets, against whom Gonzalez is now 7-1 with a 1.53 ERA in 12 starts at Citi Field. He has completed at least six innings in 10 of those starts and allowed five hits or fewer 10 times.
For a while Wednesday, it looked as if Gonzalez might match or better his best effort at Citi Field, a one-hit shutout on Sept. 9, 2013. He didn't allow a hit until surrendering Yoenis Cespedes' homer with two outs in the fourth and carried a two-hitter into the seventh, when the Mets chased him with the bases loaded and one out.
Felipe Rivero preserved what was then a 5-1 lead by forcing Kevin Plawecki to hit into a fielder's choice and retiring Michael Conforto on a grounder to first. Rivero, Shawn Kelley and Sammy Solis combined to allow just one hit over the final 2 2/3 innings.
"These guys did a great job, and then I can't complain with the offense -- they were scoring some runs," Gonzalez said. "They're the ones that are helping me out."
Gonzalez (3-1) has allowed one earned run or fewer six times in eight starts this season. His effort Wednesday night lowered his ERA to 1.86, the fifth-best mark in the National League.
"Gio continues to be one of our best pitchers," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "He's getting better and better."
Anthony Rendon gave the Nationals the lead for good with a two-run single off Bartolo Colon with two outs in the fifth. Washington added a pair of runs in the seventh, on a sacrifice fly by Daniel Murphy and a bases-loaded walk drawn by Danny Espinosa, and the ninth, when Wilson Ramos laced a two-run single.
Murphy opened the scoring with an RBI single in the third for the Nationals (24-16), who maintained their half-game lead on the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East and increased their lead over the third-place Mets to 1 1/2 games.
The Nationals drew 11 walks, the most free passes issued by the Mets since July 13, 2012.
"Give (11) free passes out, (allow) eight hits -- that's a lot of baserunners," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Not going to win a game like that."
Bryce Harper was walked four times and scored once while Jayson Werth drew three walks, had two hits and scored three runs.
"We were able to keep some pressure on Bartolo out there, get traffic on the basepaths and cash them in a couple times," Murphy said.
Colon took the loss after an unusually inefficient outing. The 42-year-old right-hander allowed three runs on five hits and five walks while striking out four over a season-low 4 2/3 innings, during which he threw a season-high 107 pitches. The five walks were the most by Colon since Apr. 26, 2005 and one more than he had issued in his first 43 1/3 innings this season.
"Don't really know what to say about the five walks," Colon said through an interpreter. "The ball just felt a little bit like I didn't have a firm grip, too loose. Maybe that's the only difference I noticed."
Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera had two hits apiece for the Mets, whose three runs in the first two games of the three-game series have all come via the home run.
NOTES: Mets 3B David Wright (back) returned to the lineup after sitting out Tuesday night's series opener. 1B Lucas Duda (back) was out of the lineup for a second straight game but was available to pinch-hit. ... Mets LHP Steven Matz threw a bullpen session with no issue and will start Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Matz missed his last start with a sore forearm. ... The four-walk game for Nationals RF Bryce Harper was his second of the season and the fourth of his career. ... The Nationals have won the last 12 starts by RHP Stephen Strasburg, who is scheduled to start Thursday's series finale.