PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With barely a week to go before Opening Day, Gio Gonzalez appears to be in midseason form.
Gonzalez struck out three batters over six innings of one-run ball on Saturday, flashing his trademark curveball frequently in a 3-1 loss to the Mets. Gonzalez's primary issue at Tradition Field was a lack of run support, with Mets prospect Rafael Montero shutting the Nats down for the first 4 2/3 innings.
Lucas Duda finally came through for the Mets with a solo homer off Drew Storen to lead off the seventh. Following a miserable start to the Grapefruit League season, Duda is now 5-for-10 with two home runs and a double over his last four games.
"I'd like to say I've seen a lot of improvement in him," manager Terry Collins said. "He's still getting himself in a much better hitting position. You can tell he's got more confidence when he goes up there. He's taking tougher pitches. There have been some real positives."
Gonzalez's only trouble came after he walked Mets catcher John Buck to open the second inning. Duda followed with a single, and Zach Lutz plated Buck with a sacrifice fly. The Mets mustered only three other hits against Gonzalez, one apiece by Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill and Ike Davis.
Returning to big league camp for a spot start, Montero was sharp over 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and a walk but no runs. He struck out three. Montero made the start because right-hander Shaun Marcum, who is due back next week, missed his most recent rotation turn with a right shoulder impingement.
Slated to break camp as a utilityman, Nationals third baseman Chad Tracy was the only Washington batter to provide any early offense, finishing 3-for-3 with a double. The Nats did not score until Francisco Soriano's sacrifice fly off Josh Edgin in the seventh. With the bases loaded and two outs, Edgin then struck out Jerad Head to escape further damage.
Up next: The Mets will split up on Sunday for the final time this spring, with lefty Aaron Laffey taking the mound for a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., and right-hander Matt Harvey starting a 1:10 p.m. ET game against the Tigers at Tradition Field. Harvey is enjoying as good of a spring as anyone, striking out 24 batters over 18 1/3 innings with a 2.95 ERA.