The Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals meet in Game 5 of the NLDS tonight in Washington, D.C. with Gio Gonzalez on the mound against Cards' right-hander Adam Wainwright.
Last night's walk-off winner by Jayson Werth kept the Washington Nationals alive, but the St. Louis Cardinals win in Game 3 gave them two chances to win the NLDS in D.C. Cards' skipper Mike Matheny told reporters last night that he thought his club would bounce back even after the deflating Game 4 loss. "We've had a large amount of heartbreakers this year," the 41-year-old, first-year manager said, "And I think that's really been used to develop the character of this team and the resiliency. These guys realize that we've got an oppportunity to come back and play another game. They do shed it pretty quickly. So it's a tough one, but [we're] still alive to play another game."
A chance to play Game 5 is all the Nats wanted. Gio Gonzalez, in particular, was confident that the Nationals could get there according to Davey Johnson. After the game last night, the Nats' skipper said that his 21-game winning left-hander had been telling him repeatedly that Washington would get there. "Gio was teling me days ago," Johnson said, "'We're going five; we're going five. Skip, don't worry about it, we're going [to] Game 5.' And today he said, 'What did I tell you, Skip? What did I tell you?' These guys are all geared up for the moment."
Gonzalez's Game 1 start didn't go exactly as planned. The left-hander walked seven and K'd five, but gave up just one hit and two earned runs in 5.0 IP in Busch Stadium. The Nationals trailed 2-1 when Gonzalez left the game, but came back to win 3-2 on a two-run single by bench bat Tyler Moore.
Looking back on his outing, the Nats' starter didn't think the start was that bad in spite of the high walk totals. "When you look at it, all said and done, seven walks, yeah," Gonzalez explained, "but you have five innings and two earned runs to a team that their starting pitcher went five and two-thirds and gave up one. Also it was a good battle between two pitchers; you find the strike zone, some way, somehow. It was my first postseason game, no excuses, but the way I see it is playing in someone else's house, pretty rowdy..."
Gonzalez and Adam Wainwright, his opponent in Game 1 in St. Louis, will face off again tonight in the nation's capital. All Gio Gonzalez wanted was a chance to get back on the mound, though he didn't necessarily think he had anything to prove after his first postseason start. "I kept my team in the game as long as possible," Gonzalez told reporters on Thursday before he knew that he would get a chance to get back on the mound at least one more time in 2012, "I gave them five good innings and I gave them two earned runs. All said and done, with all that damage, you look at it for what it was, kept the team in the game."
"Same thing with Wainwright," Gonzalez explained, "he kept his team in the game and he went five and two-thirds and one earned run." The Cards' starter gave up six hits and the one earned run while walking three and striking out 10 in 5.2 IP before his bullpen blew the lead and the game. "You look at it as we both went out there and competed and you learn from it and you make adjustments and you go out there and attack the strike zone. That's a good hitting team like I said at the beginning. They are going to be patient when they need to be and aggressive when they need to be."
"They are not going to let you walk over them," Gonzalez said, "They are going to go out there and compete and that's what we've got to do."
Jayson Werth's walk-off home run off the Cards' Lance Lynn kept the Nationals alive and gave Gio Gonzalez a chance to get back on the mound and win a game for the team he led to the NL East Championship and the NL's best record in his first season pitching out of the American League. Werth told reporters last night that he knew his teammates would be up for tonight's game and ready to win the NLDS in Nationals Park. "It will be a lot like today," Werth said, "It's what it's all about. It's what you play all winter for and what you get to Spring Training early for. We have a chance [Friday night] to take that next step."
"I know my teammates will be ready and the city will [be] too," Werth said. Gio Gonzalez is ready. All he needed was for the Nationals to give him another chance. The Nats' left-hander gets the opportunity to take the Nationals to the NLCS tonight. The nation's capital will be watching...