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NLDS Game 3 Preview: Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez takes on Dodgers with something to prove...

Gio Gonzalez put his up-and-down regular season behind him and he has something prove as the Nationals take on the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLDS.

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Gio Gonzalez held the Los Angeles Dodgers to a run on three hits over six innings in an 8-1 win in a July 20th start in the nation’s capital.

It was Washington’s only win over LA in six games during the regular season, and Gonzalez’s only outing against the Dodgers in 2016.

He struck out six in the 97-pitch effort, and impressed Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker in what the veteran manager described as an effectively wild outing.

“I think early, he'd get two strikes on almost everybody and then next thing you know it was 3-2,” Baker explained. “We're trying to reinforce to him that all you have to do is execute and make quality pitches instead of trying to strike everybody out because you've got two strikes on the guy. And that's what Gio did.

“He threw some outstanding changeups to a couple good hitters on 3-2 counts when they were looking for that fastball and he dropped a couple breaking balls in there.”

Baker was excited to see the progress from Gonzalez, he said, because the Nats’ lone left-handed starter was an important part of the rotation.

“You really need him,” Baker continued, “especially when you're going to be facing some predominantly left-handed hitting lineups."

Gonzalez will be facing the predominantly left-handed Dodgers again this afternoon in Game 3 of the NLDS in Chavez Ravine.

In the regular season, LA’s hitters, as a group, put up a .213/.290/.332 line against left-handed pitchers, good for 15th/15th/15th across the line in the fifteen-team National League.

Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts said the Nationals will see a slightly different lineup in Game 3 after the two teams split the first two games of the NLDS.

“You'll see a couple different guys in the lineup for us,” Roberts told reporters after the Nationals’ 5-2 win in Game 2.

“But I think that, you know, how we fared against left-handed pitching, I don't really think that guys are too concerned about the history.

“I think that we are looking forward to this one game, Game 3, and we've got some history with Gio, so he's going to have to make pitches to beat us.”

Roberts said the Dodgers will be ready for the lefty.

“I think we'll have a good plan,” he said. “I know that we'll have a good plan. I think it comes down to us executing our plan and Gio doing the same thing.

“If he makes mistakes, we're going to try to put at-bats together, create some stress, and if we do that, then I think we'll be in good shape.”

Gonzalez isn’t taking anything for granted going into the outing, after an up-and-down season in the Nats’ rotation, which ended with losses in two of his last three starts.

He gave up 22 hits and 12 earned runs in 13 IP in those outings, over which opposing hitters had a .373/.448/.441 line against him.

“It's never easy facing that lineup,” Gonzalez told reporters this weekend.

“I would never say, hey, just go out there and pitch. You definitely have to some have common sense to throw to some of these guys.

“You can't just groove a fastball right down the middle.

“Just watching them, how they go and approach their swing and their at-bats, you just have to have a different approach from the last start. I'm sure they are not going to think, ‘Hey, well, he pitched me like this. We have to continue to face them this way.’ Same thing as their hitting. I'm not thinking they are to go out there with the same mentality as their last start against me.”

Gonzalez was asked if he’d had time to look back on the regular season and assess how things went, but he said it was in the past at this point.

“October 2 was the last time I thought about it,” Gonzalez said. “This is the playoffs now. That's over with.”

With the regular season in the rear view, Gonzalez told reporters he was ready to take the ball in Game 3 of the Division Series.

“It's exciting,” he said. “Especially an opportunity to pitch in the postseason and I get to pitch in L.A. It's a beautiful stadium, great crowd. They pack the house. They do a great job with the fan base. It's going to be an exciting game, and I think that, you know, everyone's going to take it in, and I'm taking it in and enjoying the moment.

“This is what everybody wants to do is play in the postseason and I'm having an opportunity to actually pitch in it. I'm going to enjoy this moment.”

“And it's a great feeling, too,” Gonzalez added, and an opportunity to prove something.

“I want to take the opportunity to thank Dusty Baker for giving me this chance to pitch in Game 3 for the postseason. I want to do my best to not let him down.

“This is a great opportunity and I want to go out there and show that I can pitch in this situation.”