The Nationals are entering the final three weeks of the season still clinging to the hope they can stay in the race for a National League Wild Card spot. They would need teams like Cincinnati and Arizona to go on losing streaks. Even if that were to happen, Washington could only capitalize if it puts together a considerable winning streak.
In order to do that, the Nationals could certainly use some big starts from Gio Gonzalez down the stretch.
The left-hander will be on the mound on Monday when Washington starts a four-game series against the Mets at Citi Field. Carlos Torres, who has pitched well since taking over for Matt Harvey in the rotation, will be on the mound for New York.
Gonzalez is coming off a rough outing against the Phillies in which he allowed five runs (one earned) on five hits over 5 2/3 innings. He didn't have much help from his defense, though, as Washington committed three errors.
"Gio had a real rough start. He threw a lot of pitches," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said after that game. "He hung in there. [The fielders] were sloppy behind him. It's not the way you win pennants, I'll tell you that."
Just two starts ago, Gonzalez was dominant against the Marlins. He gave up only three hits over seven scoreless innings, while walking three and striking out eight. The Nationals could use more of those types of performances from Gonzalez in the final stretch of the season.
Torres, meanwhile, has given the Mets a couple of solid starts after taking over for the injured Harvey. In his last outing against the Braves, the right-hander allowed three runs on seven hits over seven innings. But he was shutting Atlanta out until the seventh, when he allowed all three runs.
"He's been pitching good," said Mets manager Terry Collins after the eventual 3-1 loss to the Braves. "Carlos, for the most part, has pitched very, very well for us. Even starting, he's really pitched good. He gave us a chance. We just couldn't put up any runs."
The Mets aren't in the playoff race, though, so Torres' performances are only giving New York hints about how they could use the right-hander next season.
Gonzalez, on the other hand, is going to look to keep Washington's postseason hopes alive.
Mets: Francisco back with Mets
• After having surgery in December to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, Frank Francisco has finally made it back to the Mets with about three weeks left to go in the season.
The Mets activated the right-hander from the 60-day disabled list on Saturday, and Francisco was back in uniform for their series finale against Cleveland on Sunday. It's been a rough road back to the big leagues for Francisco, who continued to experience soreness during his rehab process.
Once he was finally healthy enough to pitch regularly, Francisco went 0-2 with a 0.75 ERA in 12 regular-season Minor League rehab games with the Rookie League Gulf Coast Mets, Class A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton. Francisco also pitched two scoreless innings in two playoff games with Binghamton.
Collins said he doesn't expect to use Francisco in many save opportunities.
"I'll get him in there when I think he's got the opportunity to get some outs," Collins said. "He hasn't pitched back-to-back days, so that's probably something we'll have to be very careful of."
Francisco came into Sunday's game with one out and two runners on base in the eighth inning. He walked Yan Gomes, but then got Asdrubal Cabrera to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Francisco pitched in 48 games last season, and had 23 saves and a 5.53 ERA. The Mets signed the 33-year-old to a two-year, $12 million contract before the 2012 season.
• Harvey, who has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, is still trying to decide whether or not he should have Tommy John surgery. He'll get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, likely in the coming week.
Nationals: Detwiler hopeful of returning this season
• Pitcher Ross Detwiler, who's been on the disabled list since July 4 with a herniated disk in his lower back, threw a 20-pitch bullpen session, as he looks to get back to the Nationals' rotation at some point this season.
"I think it's like at Spring Training, because I felt strong for all 20. But there's a reason they stopped me at 20," Detwiler said. "That was the plan going in. I think they know a little better about building people up than I do. If it was up to me, I would've gone until I couldn't stand up anymore and see where I'm at then."
The left-hander will throw another bullpen session on Wednesday in New York, and will throw 10 more pitches.
Detwiler was 2-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 13 starts with Washington before going on the disabled list.
• Denard Span went 1-for-5 on Sunday, and has now hit safely in a career-high 19 consecutive games. He's hitting .397 over that stretch.
Chris Iseman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.