Nationals' Monday Night Lineup; + Gio Gonzalez Saves Pen; Jordan Zimmermann vs Cubs

Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

Gio Gonzalez's seven inning outing on Sunday spared the Washington Nationals' bullpen after back-to-back extra inning games with the Braves in Atlanta. Tonight, Jordan Zimmermann takes the mound against the Cubs in Chicago's Wrigley Field.

Washington Nationals' bench coach Randy Knorr, who took over for Davey Johnson Saturday night when both Johnson and Stephen Strasburg were ejected in the second inning, also stood in for the Nats' skipper in the post game press conference with reporters after when ended up being a fifteen inning game with the Braves. Knorr was asked if the fact that the Nationals used eight relievers and even Dan Haren (who earned his first career save in his 11th season) might lead to the team calling up some bullpen help.

"I loved what I saw out of Storen, his continued really good outings and that's a big plus." - Davey Johnson on Drew Storen

"I'm sure they're probably thinking about that right now," Knorr said. "I'm not sure. I don't think we'll be as bad tomorrow as we will be the next day. Because we have [Drew] Storen [who] can pitch. [Fernando] Abad can pitch. [Tyler] Clippard can still pitch. [Rafael Soriano] could pitch. So we've got four guys that can still go out there, so it won't get us so much tomorrow, but it might get us a couple of days from now."

Gio Gonzalez's seven innings of work and 120 pitches on Sunday spared the Nationals from having to use anyone other than the starter and Drew Storen, who came on for a five-pitch inning and his third scoreless frame since being called back up. Davey Johnson told reporters after the Nats' 2-1 loss in the series finale with the Braves that he was appreciative of Gonzalez's effort in what looked like it might be a rough outing at the start. The Nationals' lefty threw 47 pitches in the first two innings, but settled in and kept it close.

"I thanked him," Johnson explained, "I said, 'We were really beat up in the bullpen and you giving us seven strong innings was a big lift to the ballclub.' And I loved what I saw out of Storen, his continued really good outings and that's a big plus."

Washington's 70-year-old skipper faced a tough decision in the sixth when a two-out double by Chad Tracy and an intentional walk to Kurt Suzuki brought the pitcher's spot up, but he stayed with Gonzalez, who was up to 85 pitches after the top of the sixth, in spite of the fact that he might have wanted to go to the pen. "You want to, but I haven't risked the chance of maybe hurting some of my young arms in the pen," Johnson said, "Just can't do it. I know he was on the ropes, but I didn't have the innings in the bullpen to do that."

Gonzalez popped out to let Braves' starter Julio Teheran off the hook, and the Nationals added a run in the top of the seventh to make it a one run game, but fell short in the end.

The loss in Atlanta on Sunday left Washington three games under .500 at 60-63, but Gonzalez's efforts allowed them to rest their bullpen before heading into their four-game series with the Chicago Cubs. Jordan Zimmermann's on the mound tonight in Wrigley Field, looking to continue a strong stretch of three starts so far in August in which the 27-year-old right-hander is (2-0) with a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings, over which he's walked eight (4.24 BB/9) and struck out 12 (6.35 K/9) while holding opposing hitters to a .262/.347/.369 line.

As their pregame notes point out, the Nationals are 17-7 in Zimmermann's 24 starts this season. Zimmermann is (11-9) with a 2.76 ERA on the road over 25 starts in the last two seasons, with Washington 16-9 in those starts. The Nationals' '07 2nd Round pick's is (1-3) in five career starts against the Cubs, with a 4.22 ERA, 4 HR (1.13 HR/9), 5 BB (1.41 BB/9), 33 Ks (9.28 K/9) and a 1.22 WHIP in 32 IP against Chicago.

• Here's the lineup that will take the field behind Jordan Zimmermann tonight:

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