Gio Gonzalez is happy to be home.
He's just not so happy he and his Nationals teammates are back at the ballpark so early Monday. First-place Washington spent Sunday night in Atlanta, where Gonzalez tossed seven strong innings and helped them sweep the Braves.
But as nice as it was to fly to South Florida 2.5 games up on the Mets, and 3.5 games up on the third-place Marlins in the National League East, the Nats do feel a little sleep deprived.
"I'm excited to be home," Gonzalez said. "But man am I tired. We're all just trying to stay awake."
The 26-year old All-Star left-hander, who grew up in Hialeah and whom the Marlins made a push to get from Oakland this off-season, is now tied for the major league lead in wins with seven after beating ERA-leader Brandon Beachy Sunday. Gonzalez, however, is all by himself atop the league in strikeouts with 79. His ERA (2.04) ranks third in the NL.
The Marlins made their pitch to get Gonzalez from the A's this off-season. In the end, they just didn't have as much to offer as the Nationals, who gave up three talented prospects to pry him loose. Gonzalez said as nice as it would have been to pitch for the Marlins and in front of his friends and family every fifth day, it probably works out better for his wallet that he doesn't.
"In the beginning it sounded amazing -- new ballpark, my home team," Gonzalez said. "And then when you start coming down to it, Washington was probably the best thing that could happen to me.
"I can come home and say 'Hi' and then go away. I can't imagine having to get all these tickets every time I pitched."
Although Gonzalez won't be pitching against the Marlins in any of their meetings over the next three days that hasn't stopped friends and family from bombarding the him with ticket requests for the next couple days.
"I've been getting non-stop text messages and phone calls from everybody," said Gonzalez, who was part of two state championship teams at Hialeah High before leaving for and graduating from Monsignor Pace in 2004. "My mom is like, 'You've got a big pass list. You've got over 100 tickets.' I'm like, 'Hey, I don't know who they think they are, but 100 tickets is expensive man.'"
Gonzalez said he's left about 10 tickets each day for close relatives, and the Marlins are assisting him by allowing other family members and friends to buy group tickets at a discounted rate.
"I have to thank the Marlins -- they've provided them with good seats under my name," Gonzalez said. "Those fans that were going to pay so much more, they got a discount.
"One guy alone told me he was going to buy 50 tickets. Another member of the family bought tickets. Then, I've got my church from Hialeah coming. My old high school baseball team, too. My friends I grew up with. My brother's friends. I'm just excited. I know something cool is going to happen. Miami is going to welcome their Hialeah kid home."
If the Nationals rotation stays in order and there aren't any rainouts over the next month and a half, Gonzalez would be in-line to pitch at Marlins Park right after the All-Star Break, July 15th.
> Veteran outfielder Austin Kearns, on the 15-day disabled list since May 23rd with a right hamstring strain, believes he'll be ready to go once he's eligible to be reinstated June 7th.
"I think that's a possibility," Kearns said Monday. "We'll see when we start doing more. I've been riding bike, walking on the treadmill, took swings off the tee. It seems like it is getting better each day."
Kearns injured his hamstring while scoring from first base on a Giancarlo Stanton double last Tuesday against the Rockies. He's batting .375 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 48 at-bats in 22 games.
> It might not be long before we see Gaby Sanchez again.
The former All-Star first baseman has produced a hit in all eight games he's played in since being demoted to Triple A New Orleans on May 19th. Sanchez went into Monday's game hitting .346 with a home run and four RBI. He's walked eight times and also has an on base percentage of .514.
Sanchez is eligible to be brought back up on Wednesday -- Gaby Sanchez t-shirt day at Marlins Park.
> Nationals (29-18): 1. Steve Lombardozzi LF, 2. Bryce Harper RF, 3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B, 4. Adam LaRoche 1B, 5. Ian Desmond SS, 6. Danny Espinosa 2B, 7. Rick Ankiel CF, 8. Carlos Maldonado C, 9. Ryan Zimmerman P.
> Marlins (26-22): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 5. Logan Morrison 1B, 6. Bryan Petersen CF, 7. John Buck C, 8. Chris Coghlan LF, 9. Carlos Zambrano P.