The city of Hialeah sits about nine miles to the north of Marlins Park, and Saturday night it may have nearly emptied. The local boy who grew up to become an ace for the Washington Nationals had come home. For Gio Gonzalez's first start in his home town, he and his family secured more than 600 tickets. "I had so many calls, I had to stop answering my phone," said his mother, Yolanda.

Gonzalez put on a show for them but in a 2-1 loss the Nationals' offense provided scarce support and the Miami Marlins were just pesky enough. Gonzalez struck out nine and walked none in six innings. The Marlins turned five singles into two runs, both aided by sacrifice bunts. Coupled with the Atlanta Braves' victory over the New York Mets, the loss sliced the Nationals' lead in the National League East to three games.

"It was a shame," Manager Davey Johnson said. "Gio pitched a heck of a ballgame. We had plenty of opportunities out there. We just couldn't get it."

Gonzalez likely would have been pitching for some other team this year if the Nationals had signed their intended free agent target to fill the need for a top left-handed starter. Their contract offer fell short, and so Mark Buehrle signed with the Marlins instead.

The situation could not have unfolded with better fortune for the Nationals. They instead traded for Gonzalez and signed him to a seven-year contract extension, locking up a 26-year-old who has now made consecutive all-star games. Saturday night, though, Buehrle stifled the Nationals for seven innings, allowing one run and striking out seven, robbing Gonzalez of the chance to become the first pitcher in the majors with 13 wins.