NEW YORK -- It was an offseason trade that has worked out very well so far for both teams: Gio Gonzalez from the A's to the Nationals for four players, including Tommy Milone. Gio and the Nats -- which has the sound of a '50s doo-wop group -- are leading the National League East. And suddenly the unexpectedly competitive A's are wreaking havoc in the American League West. With a little more than two months to go in the season, the two left-handers have combined to win 22 games as Gonzalez notched his 13th victory on Tuesday night. His seven innings of one-run, two-hit ball were more than enough to beat R.A. Dickey and the Mets, 5-2.
"It was just one of those things where Oakland got what it wanted and Washington got what it wanted," Gonzalez said after the game about the Dec. 23, 2011, trade. "Either way, it's been great. Watching these guys grow up, playing around them, having fun with them. You can't help watching what's going on over there, too. You only wish the best for them." Milone, in his rookie season, is 9-6 with a 3.34 ERA in 19 starts. The other three players that went to Oakland in the deal were Derek Norris, Brad Peacock and Minor Leaguer A.J. Cole. Norris is the A's backup catcher and the right-handed Peacock is in the Minor Leagues. Cole has been up and down at Class A. Gonzalez is the ace right now of a stellar Washington starting staff, with his 13-5 record and 3.13 ERA in 20 starts. Comparatively, Stephen Strasburg is 10-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 19 starts. He'll make No. 20 on Wednesday as the Nats try to sweep this three-game series at Citi Field. Despite a home loss to the Mets his previous time out, Gonzalez has been so much the model of consistency that he defies comparison, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He reminds me of Gio," said Johnson about a pitcher who is already a two-time All-Star, representing the A's on the AL team in 2011 and joining Strasburg on the victorious NL squad earlier this month at Kansas City. "He's in a class by himself." And that's quite a statement coming from a man who managed the Mets when they won the 1986 World Series across the parking lot at long gone Shea Stadium, with a starting rotation that looked like this: Doc Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Bobby Ojeda and Rick Aguilera. Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler anchor the Nationals. Gonzalez seems to have been the missing piece. And it came as no surprise. "No, I saw him in the spring, and I saw him before. I thought he was a heck of a pitcher," Johnson said about Gio. "He's hard to hit. He hardly didn't give up anything again today. He's just a great pitcher, a great competitor. He likes to compete. He has fun out there." The surprise was that Billy Beane, the "Moneyball" general manager of the A's, traded Gonzalez at all. He was the main cog in the Jan. 3, 2008, deal that sent Nick Swisher to the White Sox. Gonzalez seemed to be Beane's type of pitcher. Good control, sneaky fast, terrific breaking pitches. At 26 there was nothing but upside. Beane then started tearing apart the roster this past offseason, going even younger. When he later re-signed Coco Crisp and added Bartolo Colon and Cuban phenom Yoenis Cespedes as free agents, there seemed to be no method to his madness. But things seem to have a way of working out. While the Nationals continue to lead the Braves by 4 1/2 games and are 18 big ones over .500, suddenly the A's have gone bonkers. As far back as nine games under .500 on June 10, the A's sat at 52-44 after knocking off the Blue Jays in Toronto on Tuesday night, a 17-game turnaround. They have won six in a row, including a four-game home sweep of one-run wins this past weekend over the Yankees, and are 15-2 for the month of July. They trail Texas by 5 1/2 games and the Angels by a half-game in the division race and are sitting -- if not too securely -- in the new second Wild Card spot. If the regular season ended today, which it doesn't, the A's would play the Angels in a "win and in" one-game playoff in Anaheim. The winner would go to an AL Division Series, probably against the Yankees, and the loser would go home after game No. 163. As much fun as Gonzalez is having playing out the season with the Nationals, it's an added bonus watching what his old teammates are doing on the other coast. "They've been unbelievable, from what I'm seeing. They've been playing some great ball," he said. "Once in awhile I try to catch a game here and there. They swept the Yankees over the weekend. I heard about that. They have some great guys over there, who really helped me out and let me grow to the maturity level I am at now -- Dallas Braden, Kurt Suzuki and Cliff Pennington. Their pitching staff is No. 1 for a reason." Even without the injured Brett Anderson and Braden. Even without Gio Gonzalez. "It's worked out great for me," Gonzalez concluded. "It's worked out great for everybody. Exactly!"
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.