Gio Gonzalez has had bad starts this season. They have been few and far between but he has had them. Think back to the beginning of the season. The day after Stephen Strasburg pitch brilliantly on Opening Day Gio Gonzalez took the mound and gave up four runs in 3 2/3 innings. It wasn’t a pretty start and it got people wondering if the pitcher that walked too many people and pitched in a big ballpark in the AL was really a good investment. The Nats gave up a lot of prospects to get Gio Gonzalez and he stumbled out of the gate.
The Nationals in their five game series against the Cardinals have stumbled, and let’s face it in game three they fell flat on their face. The first home playoff game in DC since 1933 and the Nationals managed nothing on either side of the ball. Edwin Jackson gave up four runs before recording his fourth out of the game, and the Nats bats put up zero runs. The Nationals never answered the bell in game three and in the series have been out scored 23-9. During the regular season the Nationals had the best run differential in baseball and in this short series they have managed to look like they barely belong. The Nats have won two games with late inning heroics from Tyler Moore and Jayson Werth.
The second start Gio made was the Nationals home opener against the Cincinnati Reds. Gio Gonzalez pitched seven innings of two hit baseball. It was the only the start of a great season. Gio Gonzalez went on to win 21 games during the regular season and lead all NL pitchers with a 2.82 FIP. It is a season that has many talking that Gio Gonzalez is a top candidate for NL Cy Young. The game against the Reds was the bounce back that Gio needed after a tough start and it was the type of game that can start a team rolling.
The Nationals may not have done much offensively against the Cardinals but this is a team that during the regular season scored 731 runs, the fifth most in the NL. The Nationals offense can score runs and they can score runs quickly. The Nationals finished the regular season with the second most homers in the NL with 194, and the third highest SLG at .428. The Nationals hitters can match power with any line-up in the NL, but they haven’t yet against the Cardinals. Tonight could be different. Jayson Werth’s ninth inning homer may have awakened something in the Nationals. Something nearly forgotten.
The same thing that was awoken when last Gio Gonzalez met Adam Wainwright at Nats Park. A game the Nationals won 10-0 as National after National recorded hit after hit off of Adam Wainwright. In the end he lasted only 2 2/3 innings pitched giving up six runs. The Nationals need to remember that moment and know that they have the Cy Young contender on the mound and the Cardinals have the pitcher fighting his way back from Tommy John’s surgery.
Adam Wainwright this season is not the Adam Wainwright of old. At time he appears that way and is capable of shutting down any line-up he faces when he is on, but there are other times when he isn’t as good and looks to be a normal pitcher. That can be said about almost any pitcher in baseball, but Wainwright is an ace of staff and more than that he is one of the few true Aces in the sport. Not this season though. His 2 /23 innings of work against the Nationals in August was the worst start of his season, but Wainwright six times pitched five innings or fewer, and Wainwright finished this season with his highest ERA ever.
Last evening the Nationals were playing to give themselves one more day, a chance to move on to the NLCS, and now that day has arrived and the Nationals wouldn’t face it any other way. Their best pitcher is on the mound taking on the Cardinals best pitcher. This is going to be a game decided by who makes the least mistakes and who can come through with the big hit when needed. So far in this series nearly everything has gone the Cardinals way, but today the Nationals have a chance to win it, and if you don’t think they can you haven’t been paying attention this season. Enjoy game five tonight. It isn’t often that these moments come around.