Nine miles from Marlins Park is the working-class town of Hialeah where Gio Gonzalez grew up. So deep is the connection that the town's name is embroidered on his glove.

Hialeah, Fla., is where Gonzalez's father, Max, taught his son the curveball that has become one of baseball's devastating pitches, the narrow practice space by the side of their house shaping the sharp break that is the pitch's trademark. He never expected the pitch to become what it is today.

The Washington Nationals' left-hander used a flurry of the knee-buckling, bat-freezing curveballs Saturday night at Marlins Park. But the pitches weren't enough in Gonzalez's first professional start in Miami, as the Marlins edged the Nationals, 2-1.

The buoyant Gonzalez, always with a grin and something to say, professed no unusual enthusiasm or nerves. Around 600 family and friends attended, some kidding him via pregame text messages that the I-95 freeway was clogged with traffic because so many people were en route to watch him pitch.

"He was excited," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He's always a little excited."

Behind home plate and the nearby pair of 450-gallon aquariums — and within game-long earshot of catcher Jesus Flores — sat Max and Gonzalez's mother, Yolanda.

But Gonzalez's curveballs that helped retire the first nine batters he faced couldn't overcome the veteran left arm and blistering pace of Marlins starter Mark Buehrle. Last winter, Buehrle was the Nationals' top free agent target. But the Marlins (42-45), spending like lottery winners to load up the new for their new stadium, gave him $58 million over four seasons.