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HOU@WSH: Gonzalez fans eight through seven scoreless

A rainout on Sunday afternoon prevented the Nationals from continuing their hot start, but it did give them an extra day off before opening a six-game West Coast road trip. The Nats will kick off a three-game series against the Padres on Tuesday night at Petco Park, followed by three games at Dodger Stadium.

The Nationals hope the break in the schedule doesn't stall the momentum they have generated in winning five consecutive series to begin the year 12-4. That has given them a two-game lead in the National League East and put them a game behind the Rangers for the best record in the Major Leagues.

After posting a 36-45 road record in 2011, the Nats have started 2012 with a 4-2 mark away from home. Gio Gonzalez will attempt to carry that success into the team's first meeting this season against the scuffling Padres, who beat the Phillies on Sunday to bump their record to 5-12.

Gonzalez, who will be opposed by Clayton Richard, had his start pushed back from Sunday due to the rainout. In his last outing, against the Astros, he earned his first NL victory, moving to 1-0 with a 2.04 ERA this season.

The lefty, acquired in an offseason trade with Oakland, has thrown 14 scoreless innings over his past two starts. He has allowed two hits and two walks in that span, while striking out 15, control he attributed to the work of catchers Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores.

"[The catchers] do a great job about giving a strike zone," Gonzalez said. "I'm not taking anything away from the catchers I had in Oakland. They were great, they were phenomenal. They helped me out in a lot of games. But, again, this is a different league for me. I figured I could just go out there, pound the strike zone, let these guys put the ball in play. I want to avoid the walks, let these guys put the ball in play."

The Padres will counter with Richard, who is 1-1 with a 5.89 ERA after struggling in his past two starts. He was shelled for eight earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Rockies on Wednesday at Coors Field.

However, the left-hander feels like he may have found something in his mechanics to fix, which will help in Tuesday's start.

"I wasn't getting on top of the ball with my hand," Richard said. "With [pitching coach Darren Balsley] I've really focused on getting on top of the ball. It helps with command and movement."

Nationals: Werth the wait
Outfielder Jayson Werth finally connected for his first home run of the season in Washington's dramatic win over Miami on Saturday, finishing 2-for-4 with a double to snap a three-game hitless streak.

Although Werth has not been hitting long balls in the early part of the season, he has dramatically increased his production from a year ago, when he struggled in his first season in Washington. Werth is batting .322 with an .886 OPS, after posting marks of .232 and .718 in 2011. Besides the home run, he has notched four doubles and a triple.

• Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was a late scratch from Saturday's game because of mild right shoulder inflammation. He is listed as day to day, but said on Sunday he was feeling better and expects to play on Tuesday.

Zimmerman missed 48 games in 2008 with a small labral tear in his shoulder, but this time there is no structural damage.

Padres: Blanks to get season-ending surgery
A week after he landed on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder, Padres outfielder Kyle Blanks is headed toward season-ending surgery to repair a significant tear in the labrum of that shoulder.

"It's not the end of the world, but at the end of the day I'm not going to say it doesn't [stink]," Blanks said. "But there are other guys in this clubhouse who have gone through the same thing. It's a little step back. It's another hurdle."

Blanks first felt soreness in his left shoulder in Spring Training and missed 11 games in Arizona because of it. He made the Opening Day roster and had one hit in five at-bats before feeling the same pain in the shoulder during batting practice on April 13 at Dodger Stadium.

• Catcher Nick Hundley knocked in a career-high four runs in Sunday's 6-1 win over the Phillies. He started the season 0-for-21 before getting 10 hits in his next 25 at-bats.

Worth noting

• Current Nationals have combined for a .507 slugging percentage in 80 plate appearances against Richard, with shortstop Ian Desmond accounting for two of the group's four home runs. Comments