The legacies of playoff sadness for the Washington Nationals and Washington D.C. as a whole are now in the hands of Gio Gonzalez. Or should we say they’re in the hands of Gio Gonzalez again.
The Nats announced that Gonzalez will start their decisive Game 5 against the Chicago Cubs, happening Thursday night in D.C. The Cubs are countering with Kyle Hendricks, who looked masterful in Game 1 of the series.
There was some question about where Nats manager Dusty Baker would go with this decision after his team staved off elimination Wednesday at Wrigley Field. Ace Max Scherzer would have been pitching on two days’ rest if the Nats chose him, and he’s coming off an end-of-the-year hamstring injury. Tanner Roark, the Nats’ fourth starter, was an option. Instead, Roark and Scherzer will be available out of the bullpen.
Gonzalez is pitching on normal rest, after starting Game 2 of the series on Saturday. The Nats won that game 6-3, but not necessarily because of him. He went five innings, allowing three runs on three hits while striking out six. Gonzalez gave up two homers to leave in a 3-1 hole, but Bryce Harper hit a game-tying homer in the eighth before Ryan Zimmerman followed with a go-ahead three-run homer.
For a city that’s so used to disappointment from its sports teams in the playoffs — particularly in do-or-die games — a different Gio Gonzalez playoff game might come to mind. Five years ago to the day, he started Game 5 of the NLDS for the Nats against the St. Louis Cardinals, a game that still haunts Nats fans.
Gonzalez pitched well enough — five innings, three runs. The Nats led 6-0 at one point, and 7-5 going into the ninth. But then Carlos Beltran, Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma keyed a four-run ninth inning rally to sink D.C.’s hopes.
The Nationals are most certainly hoping for a different outcome with Gio Gonzalez on the mound five years later. Perhaps it’s their chance to exorcise some postseason demons.
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