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Nationals vs Cardinals: Grapefruit League GameThread... Gio Gonzalez vs the Cards

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The Nationals and Cardinals match up again this afternoon in Grapefruit League action with Gio Gonzalez on the hill in West Palm Beach, FL.

MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at Washington Nationals Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In his first two starts this Spring, Gio Gonzalez tossed a total of four scoreless innings for the Washington Nationals, with the left-hander walking one, striking out one and holding opposing hitters to a combined .083 AVG.

Gonzalez makes start No. 3 of the Spring this afternoon when the Nats welcome the St. Louis Cardinals to West Palm Beach’s Ballpark of the Palm Beaches at 1:05 PM EST.

After tossing three scoreless against the Cards last weekend, Gonzalez, who needed just 29 pitches to get through the outing, told reporters, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo, that he had to change his game plan for the start to adjust to how the Cardinals were attacking him:

“They were being aggressive so it was tough to [throw] some of the pitches I wanted. So I was like, ‘You know what, let me start mixing them in now.’”

Gonzalez got two double play grounders in the outing, erasing a leadoff walk in his first inning of work and a one-out single in the second before retiring the Cards in order in his final inning of work on the mound in Jupiter, FL’s Roger Dean Stadium.

Coming off a 2016 campaign which saw the 31-year-old lefty go (11-11) in 32 starts with a 4.57 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 59 walks (2.99 BB/9), 171 Ks (8.68 K/9) and a .257/.326/.404 line against in 177 1⁄3 IP, finishing the season at 2.9 fWAR, the Nationals’ picked up Gonzalez’s $12M option for this season, and there is a vesting option for 2018 in his contract which is guaranteed if the veteran starter reaches 180 innings in 2017.

Gonzalez topped 180 innings in four straight seasons from 2010-2013, but hasn’t hit that mark in any of the last three seasons.

Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker told reporters after Gonzalez’s last outing, again, as quoted in The Washington Post, that it was up to the southpaw to keep his pitch counts down if he wants to go deeper into his starts this season after high pitch counts led to some abbreviated outings this past season:

“He doesn’t want to come out but I got to take him out. And I told him a number of times, ‘I don’t want to take you out.’ But the situation and the inning of the game dictates what I have to do and so if he wants to stay out there longer, you got to minimize the amount of pitches you throw in a short period of time, stay away from the high pitch count inning, that’s number one. He was very, very good today.”

Gonzalez takes the mound in the Nationals’ Spring home at 1:05 PM EST today. You can follow along via MLB.com’s audio feed.

Here’s the Nationals’ lineup for this afternoon’s game against the Cardinals: