WASHINGTON, D.C.: Gio Gonzalez has started in each of Washington’s three previous playoff runs, all NLDS losses, but hasn’t made a start in Nationals Park since the first, back in 2012.
With Max Scherzer pushed back to Game 3 by the hamstring tweak he suffered last weekend, Gonzalez, the Nats’ 32-year-old left-hander, gets the nod in Game 2 against the Cubs this afternoon.
When he met with reporters on Friday, Gonzalez said he was excited that he’d get an opportunity to make another Postseason start in the nation’s capital.
“Last start I had at home was in 2012,” Gonzalez said, “so it was a long time ago for us right now.
“But as far as the last I remember, was getting that home-crowd feeling,” he continued, “... the excitement to see everyone on their feet, clapping it up. They really get into it -- the crowd, the hometown crowd.”
Gonzalez said he thought he would start Game 3, but was told earlier this week that he would get the second game of the best-of-five series with the Cubs.
“I mean, I was preparing myself to pitch in Chicago,” Gonzalez explained.
“The situation came [up] and obviously we all know the situation. I was getting ready to pitch, you know, in Chicago and get ready to face the lineup.
“So it might be different, how they want to approach it for tomorrow's game. But as far as that, now I know when I'm pitching, so I'll kind of mix it in, and finally gave me a couple days to prepare myself.
“As far as that, I've got to prepare myself either way, whether I'm at home or on the road. You've still got to face a good lineup.”
The Cubs put up a .264/.349/.456 line against left-handers this season, which was good for 4th/1st/1st across the line among National League teams, so Gonzalez has a tough task ahead of him, though he knew he’d have an opportunity to watch Game 1 to get a good look at the Cubs.
“I don't know what tomorrow's lineup is going to look like but I do have to prepare myself for the guys that I think are going to be there,” he explained.
“Yes, I get very fortunate when I get to see a lineup like that, and I get to see our pitching staff and guys and how they approach it and this and that.
“But still, that's a lineup that can do magic 1 through 9, so you have to respect it, whoever they put out there. I just want to prepare myself and try and take one hitter at a time, and we'll see how the outcome comes.”
“He's had a really good season and he's very tough on lefties,” Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon said after winning Game 1, when he was asked what problems Gonzalez presents.
Gonzalez held left-handers to a .183/.251/.256 line and right-handed hitters to a .226/.310/.370 line on the year.
“He's extremely tough,” Maddon continued. “We've had a couple guys with not very good numbers against him.
“So with Gio, a big thing about him, for me, historically is you've really got to make him throw the ball over the plate. He's really into getting you to chase a little bit. So if we could really command our strike zones, that would be probably the biggest thing we can do. He's very competitive, good guy. I've had conversation with him in the past. Very good coming off -- he's on a good season right now.
“I think from our perspective is to make him come into the zone; if we're chasing, he's going to have a real good night.”