Jeremy Hefner will start for the Mets on Sunday as the team adds him to its starting rotation. Hefner last started on Aug. 4 against San Diego -- he earned the win after allowing just one earned run in six innings of work.
Hefner moved back to the bullpen following that start to make room for Johan Santana's return from the disabled list. But manager Terry Collins acknowledged after Hefner's last start that if the team ever needed a spot start or made a change in its rotation, Hefner would be his go-to guy.
That time is now.
Hefner has been a solid option for Collins out of the bullpen, specifically in a long-man role. He has allowed just two earned runs over his last 6 2/3 innings -- spanning three appearances -- and has walked just one batter.
"I've worked really hard to get to where I'm at now, not just this year but in my entire career," Hefner said after his Aug. 4 start. "I think it's just all my hard work, it's kind of paying off a little bit."
Gio Gonzalez will take the hill for the Nationals looking to become to first player since the team moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005 to reach 16 wins.
Gonzalez has already faced the Mets twice this season -- back-to-back starts on July 19 and 24. New York knocked him out of the game after just 3 1/3 innings the first time -- he gave up six earned runs and walked three. But five days later, it was a completely different story as he gave up just two hits and one run -- unearned -- over seven innings.
"I think it was just one of those things where you want to bounce back," Gonzalez said after the start. "You want to bounce back as a pitcher. You don't want to feel down and out."
Mets: Talk of Santana being shut down
Though the Mets' postseason chances have grown increasingly slim over the past few weeks, giving up on 2012 has not been an option. And Johan Santana is no exception.
But as Santana continues to struggle, shutting him down for the remainder of the season is becoming more and more of a possibility in order to ensure his readiness for next season.
Collins met with Santana after Friday night's start -- Santana's fifth consecutive loss. He surrendered six runs on seven hits, and has given up at least six runs in each of his past five starts, none of which exceeded five innings.
"Well, I don't know if he's asking for it," Collins said. "What he is basically saying is if that's what we think we should do to make sure he's healthy next year, he's on board with it. He understands the whole thought process behind it."
Nationals: Strasburg taking it one start at a time
The 160-innings limit set for Stephen Strasburg has been a hot topic of late as the Nationals look primed to secure the team's first postseason berth since moving to Washington in 2005.
But Strasburg -- who underwent Tommy John surgery in late 2010 -- said Saturday that no one in the Nationals organization has told him that his season will come to an end soon, despite already pitching 139 1/3 innings. As of now, he is taking it one start at a time.
"Nobody said anything to me. I'm going out there to finish this year and go to the playoffs," Strasburg said.
He will make his next scheduled start on Tuesday against Atlanta.
"That's a goal of mine. I just want to keep pitching well and help this team win as many games as we can," Strasburg said.
Gonzalez is one of three pitchers who trail Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto for the league lead in victories. Cueto earned his 16th win on Saturday.
Michael Morse's hitting streak ended at 13 games with an 0-for-4 Saturday.
Frank Francisco reached the 20-save mark for the second time in his career by closing out the Mets' 2-0 win Saturday.