NEW YORK — Gio Gonzalez chuckled when asked to explain his success at Citi Field.
"It's New York. It's a beautiful city. It's got great food," he said.
Michael Taylor drove in the only run with an infield single, and Washington won for the 16th time in its last 18 games in Queens. Ian Desmond snapped an 0-for-29 slump with two hits and threw out a runner at the plate.
Gonzalez (2-2) gave up six hits, walked two and even made a diving play on a slow grounder, rebounding nicely after he was hit hard Sunday in a loss at Miami. The left-hander improved to 6-1 with a 1.66 ERA in nine starts at Citi Field.
"The weather's amazing. The airport's awesome," he said.
Aaron Barrett and Matt Grace combined on a perfect eighth, and Drew Storen worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save.
Niese (2-2) pitched in traffic all night but also went seven innings. He allowed nine hits and one walk in a hard-luck loss as New York fell to 11-2 at home this season.
"It was just a great battle all the way to the end," Gonzalez said.
Niese has yielded one earned run in four of his five starts this year, but the left-hander has lost his last four outings against Washington.
"Anytime you lose it stinks, but especially when a guy gives you an effort like that and pitches as well as he did. You feel like you let him down a little bit," Mets cleanup hitter Michael Cuddyer said.
With one out in the first, Juan Lagares tried to score from first base on Lucas Duda's long double into the left-field corner. Because of the way the Citi Field stands hug the foul lines, Mets third base coach Tim Teufel appeared to have a hard time getting a good view of Jayson Werth chasing the ball.
Teufel waved Lagares home, and he was thrown out on a strong relay from Desmond at shortstop. With Cuddyer due up next, it was a costly decision for New York.
"Once in a while you have to make them make a play," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He made a great throw."
Gonzalez retired Daniel Murphy with two runners in scoring position to end the inning. The only other time the Mets advanced a runner past first base was in the fifth, when Duda hit an inning-ending grounder with men on second and third.
Washington had chances all night but scored the lone run in the second.
Desmond threw his hands in the air after ending his hitless skid by grounding a single that caromed off second base. Danny Espinosa followed with a single, Gonzalez advanced both runners with a sacrifice, and Desmond scored on Taylor's sharp grounder that squirted out of the glove of a diving Murphy at third base.
"Yeah, always good to get hits," Desmond said. "But more importantly, win the game. That's really the object at hand."
It was Washington's first shutout of the season, and the first time the Mets have been blanked.
GETTING IT DOWN
Gonzalez matched a franchise record with three sacrifices. The previous player to accomplish the feat was Pedro Martinez in 1996 for Montreal against the Mets at Shea Stadium.
Nationals: 3B-2B Anthony Rendon (sprained left knee) was scratched from a rehab game with Double-A Harrisburg because he couldn't get his side loosened up, the Nationals said. He was scheduled to play seven innings at second base and will try again Sunday. Before that bit of news, manager Matt Williams said Rendon could be back by the end of the coming week. Rendon got two at-bats Friday for Harrisburg after sitting out several games with tightness in his side. ... CF Denard Span sat out his second consecutive game because of soreness and fatigue. He had two recent operations in his core muscle area and began the season on the disabled list. Span was available off the bench and should be fine to start Sunday, Williams said.
Nationals: RHP Doug Fister starts the finale of the four-game series Sunday. Fister was 5-1 with a 1.90 ERA in day games last season.
Mets: RHP Dillon Gee has lasted at least five innings in 50 straight starts, the longest active streak in the majors and tied with Dwight Gooden (1987-89) for the team record. Gee is 8-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 16 starts versus Washington, though Desmond (three homers) and Bryce Harper (.368 with two homers and two doubles in 19 at-bats) have enjoyed success against him.