SAN DIEGO -- Pinch-hitter Chad Tracy hit a two-run single in the seventh to lift Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals to a 3-1 win over the Padres in the opener of a three-game series at Petco Park on Tuesday.
The win is the third straight and sixth in seven games for the Nationals, who continue to convert strong efforts from their starting pitchers into victories and improved to 13-4.
Gonzalez (2-0) blanked San Diego over six innings, extending the Nationals' streak of scoreless frames by starting pitchers to 22. Gonzalez has not allowed a run in his last 20 innings. The left-hander gave up two hits and walked two while striking out six, continuing to impress with his new team as he has struck out at least six batters in all four of his starts for the Nationals.
"Wilson Ramos did a great job behind the dish calling a great game," Gonzalez said. "Obviously, the defense -- and then Tracy coming up to bat and bringing in those runs. All the credit in the world to those guys. All I was trying to do was keep us in the game as long as possible."
Padres starter Clayton Richard matched Gonzalez by holding Washington scoreless through the sixth, and the left-hander did not allow a hit until the fifth, when Adam LaRoche hit a leadoff double.
"You saw a good, live fastball and a good hard breaking ball," Padres manager Bud Black said of Gonzalez. "And his changeup was better than advertised. He pitches aggressively."
Short-handed on the bench due to a shoulder injury making Ryan Zimmerman unavailable, and with primarily left-handed hitters in reserve, the Nationals twice came through with run-scoring pinch-hits despite lefty-on-lefty matchups.
Tracy rewarded his manager, Davey Johnson, in the seventh for pinch-hitting for Gonzalez despite the matchup against the left-handed Richard. Xavier Nady helped Washington break through against Richard earlier in the frame with a leadoff double.
"Usually you don't expect to do it," Tracy said of facing a left-hander. "We knew we had three lefties on the bench, and if the pitcher's spot came up -- and Gio's pitch count was up -- and we had men on, so somebody was going to take the at-bat."
Rick Ankiel delivered the second run-scoring pinch-hit by a left-handed batter when he drove in a run with a single in the ninth.
"We were short-handed with [Zimmerman] out," Johnson said. "Tracy swung the bat a lot against lefties in Spring Training, and he's been hitting the ball hard, but he's been hitting into bad luck. It was nice to see him drive them home."
Craig Stammen created a difficult situation in the seventh for Tyler Clippard, who replaced Stammen after the first two runners of the inning reached base. One of the inherited runners scored when Jayson Werth mishandled a bloop single by Andy Parrino, but Clippard prevented further damage by escaping a one-out jam with runners on second and third.
"I usually wouldn't have gone to [Stammen] that early, but I didn't like all of the matchups that were coming up with all of the pinch-hitters they had on the bench," Johnson said. "The switch-hitters and everything else, that was the way we wanted to go, especially after Stammen walked the leadoff hitter and gave up a broken-bat hit."
Sean Burnett worked around a single to hold the lead in the eighth. Henry Rodriguez worked a scoreless ninth for his fifth save in as many chances.
"We've got to scratch and claw and try to get a couple of runs," Johnson said. "We've got to be perfect with our pitching. Hopefully we'll see some hitting in sight, and our offense will pick up. It's been a rough start for runs."
The Nationals advanced only one other runner as far as second base before the seventh, and did so on a controversial play. Richard walked Mark DeRosa and committed a balk, which Black argued before home-plate umpire Lance Barrett ejected Black from the game.
Richard (1-2) exited the game after 6 1/3 innings, having surrendered two runs. He walked five batters -- two intentionally -- and struck out six.
Tim Powers is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.