Perez pitched into the eighth inning to earn his first home win and Washington ended a nine-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.
"If I see five runs in the first two innings, I have a 90 percent chance to win the game," Perez said.
The matchup featured two struggling teams that made dramatic changes to their rosters this week.
It was Cincinnati's first game since it traded outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. Reliever Nick Masset, one of two players acquired by the Reds in the deal, allowed one hit in three scoreless innings.
Perez was backed by the majors' youngest team. After Thursday's release of 36-year-old catcher Paul Lo Duca, the Nationals sported a roster with an average age of 27 years, 197 days.
Perez made it easy for them, winning for just the fourth time in 20 starts. He allowed one run and three hits over 7 1/3 innings in his longest start since he pitched eight innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 11, 2005.
"When I came out after the seventh inning, I thought 'I'm done," Perez said.
Washington manager Manny Acta thought otherwise, and sent Perez back out for the eighth. The left-hander allowed a triple to Jolbert Cabrera before Saul Rivera entered and got out of the jam, retiring Jerry Hairston Jr. on a comebacker before striking out Jeff Keppinger to end the inning.
Perez (4-8) also allowed a leadoff double to Keppinger in the fourth and a fifth-inning single to Andy Phillips.
"He was pitching smart. Getting us to chase -- getting me to chase pitches that I couldn't drive," Bruce said. "He's a veteran guy and he really knows how to pitch."
Bonifacio and Gonzalez both played well in their first game with the Nationals. Bonifacio went 1-for-4, scored a run and swiped a base, and Gonzalez doubled, scored a run and walked twice. They also combined on a nifty inning-ending double play in the seventh.
"You saw athleticism in turning a double play that I didn't think was going to be turned," Acta said.
Homer Bailey (0-5) lasted just two innings for Cincinnati, allowing five runs and seven hits. The Reds have lost six of seven.
"I was damn near putting it on a tee for them," Bailey said. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, as long as they don't cut your arms off -- and they're still attached."
Dukes went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in his first action since missing 19 games with an injured right knee.
"I'm just fortunate in being a quick healer," Dukes said. "If I didn't hit that double, Odalis would have stepped it up and probably giving up no hits."
Keppinger scored on Brandon Phillips' fourth-inning groundout for the Reds' first run.
Washington 3B Ryan Zimmerman missed the game with a bruised right hand. He was hit by a pitch in Thursday's game against Philadelphia. ... Nationals SS Cristian Guzman missed his sixth game with a bruised left thumb. ... The Nationals optioned RHP Garrett Mock to Columbus to make room for Bonifacio. ... Washington reinstated RHP Ryan Wagner from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Columbus. ... The Reds activated Hairston from the 15-day DL and optioned RHP Todd Coffey to Triple-A Louisville.