This season has been trying for Washington Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez. His performance hasn’t been up to his usual standard or ability. He landed on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year major league career, his inflamed left shoulder betraying him and forcing him to miss a month. Monday was only his second start back from injury, his season in need of mending.

Gonzalez climbed the mound at Miller Park on Monday to face the hot-hitting Milwaukee Brewers, the team with the best record in the National League, and he delivered six scoreless innings. They weren’t pretty, but Gonzalez battled his own command issues and waded through a right-handed-heavy, power-hitting lineup to send the Nationals to a 3-0 win in a showdown of first-place teams.

After he completed the sixth inning, Gonzalez received a huge smile and well-earned embrace from pitching coach Steve McCatty in the dugout. The Nationals’ gregarious left-hander hasn’t had much to be happy about this season, which so far has consisted of some clunkers, an injury and a dugout blowup. But Monday, he labored hard to send the Nationals to the win.

“It’s a huge accomplishment coming back especially with a team like that,” Gonzalez said. “The Brewers are red hot and I wanted to make a statement with the rotation and trying to be a part of it.”