Gio Gonzalez Returns To Busch Stadium For First Time Since Game 1 Of 2012 NLDS

Dilip Vishwanat

Gio Gonzalez walked seven batters in five innings last October, in Game 1 of the NLDS with St. Louis in the Cardinals' home, but he gave up just one hit and two earned runs in that outing. Gonzalez returns to the mound in Busch Stadium tonight...

Before his first start in St. Louis, Missouri's Busch Stadium, Gio Gonzalez was asked what went through his mind when he was informed that he'd be the Game 1 starter in last October's NLDS. "What went through my mind?" the Washington Nationals' lefty asked rhetorically. "Back flips. Cartwheels. Excitement. Just look at it for what it was. It was a moment that at the same time we clinched [the NL East] and had the celebration, all this was going through my mind. It was one of those things where you experience [it] and have some fun. I think that I enjoyed it, I had my time to enjoy the moment, and now the table is turned, you have to turn the page and you have to look forward to this team. St. Louis is not going to be easy to face. These guys are mentally ready. They have been through the experience. They know what it's like."

"Back flips. Cartwheels. Excitement. Just look at it for what it was. It was a moment that at the same time we clinched [the NL East] and had the celebration, all this was going through my mind." - Gio Gonzalez on excitement before first career start in STL last October

The 2012 Cards hit lefties well, with a .276/.338/.450 line in the regular season. They didn't hit Gonzalez that well in the five innings he was on the mound in St. Louis, but the Nats' 21-game winner struggled with his command, walking seven and giving up just one hit and two earned runs in what ended up a come-from-behind 3-2 win.

"When you look at it, all said and done, seven walks, yeah," Gonzalez told reporters before his Game 5 start vs the Cards, "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."

His Game 5 start lasted just five innings as well, but Gonzalez left the game with a lead only to have the Nationals' bullpen blow it in the ninth in devastating season-ending fashion.

Gonzalez returns to the Cardinals' home for the first time since that NLDS Game 1 matchup tonight and faces St. Louis for the first time since Game 5 last October. He's made just one regular season start against the Cards in his major league career, throwing a complete game shutout in the nation's capital on August 31, 2012. This year's Cardinals aren't quite as strong against lefties, with a combined .237/.298/.370 line on the year. Their .237 AVG vs LHP is tied for 12th of 15 NL teams. Their .298 OBP vs LHP is the National League's second worst (tied with the Cubs) and their .270 SLG has them ranked 12th of 15 NL teams.

The Nationals' lefty enters tonight's game, his next-to-last scheduled start of the season, with a (17-7) record and a 3.60 ERA in 33 starts on the road in the two seasons since he was traded from Oakland to Washington before the 2012 campaign. Can Gio and the Nats beat the Cards tonight in St. Louis and stop the Cardinals' five-game winning streak in matchups between the two teams?

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