WASHINGTON D.C – Once again, Dusty Baker left open the possibility of making a change at his starting pitcher’s spot on Wednesday.
Gio Gonzalez, who started Game 2 for the Nationals, was originally slated to go in Game 5 tonight in Washington. But reports circulated last night that Max Scherzer, who was dominant in his effort in Game 3, might get the nod on just three days rest.
But indeed the Nationals are going to stick with the plan and have Gonzalez face Kyle Hendricks in winner-take-all NLDS deciding game at 7 PM tonight. It’s expected, however, that the Nationals will have Scherzer, the defending Cy Young winner, in the bullpen for middle relief.
Gonzalez was 15-9 during the regular season with a 2.96 ERA and likely would have been the Game 3 starter for the Nationals had Scherzer’s hamstring not forced his start to be pushed back. In Game 2 against the Cubs, he allowed three runs in five innings while striking out six and got a no decision as Washington rallied for a 6-3 victory.
That performance was not as impressive as Hendricks in Game 1, arguably one of the best starts in the modern playoff era of the Cubs. In seven inning, Hendricks shutout the powerful Nationals offense in a 3-0 victory. In three of this last four playoff starts Hendricks hasn’t given up an earned run – and he’s performed well in pressure situations.
He shutout the Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field to clinch the Cubs’ first pennant in 71 years. Then he started the first World Series game at the Friendly Confines in the same amount of time six days later against the Indians. Once again, he got the pressure call in the deciding Game 7 of the World Series and allowed just one run in 4 2/3 innings.
“I think it helps a lot. You have to rely on your experience and having been in those situations. You know what the atmosphere is going to be like. You know what the crowd is going to be like,” said Hendricks of using his past experience to help him on Thursday night. “All those external factors, if you can kind of keep that under control, you know the pitching part.
“You know what to do once you get out on the mound. Being able to control all those external factors, I think, is going to be huge. But yeah, it will help me out.”
Especially considering that he’s won those contests in the past.