Gio Gonzalez sat at the table in the Nationals Park press conference room in his postseason hoodie and shorts. He cracked a joke about the temperature, ran his hand through his perfectly-manicured hair and then addressed the precarious nature of preparing to start a game that may or may not happen.
“You have to try to win Game 4 to get to Game 5,” he said early Thursday afternoon, his hope for making at least one more start this season resting on someone else’s left arm.
“This conversation would not be happening if we were not going to be having Game 5.”
The Nationals face elimination from the postseason if they lose on Thursday and they’re sending Ross Detwiler to the mound in the hopes that he can help them live at least one more day. If he can do that, Gonzalez will take the mound on regular rest to make his second start in the series for a winner-take-all game.
“This is where we have to come out, right off the bat, and set a statement,” he said. “There will be a Game 5.”
Gonzalez had to hope for such an outcome for many reasons, tops among them, of course, because it’d mean the Nationals’ quest for a World Series title will still be alive. But also because it’d give him an opportunity redeem himself from a seven-walk performance in the series opener, the only game the Nationals have won in the series, and perform more like the way he had in a 21-win, Cy-Young-worthy season.
Gonzalez’s wildness on Sunday was reminiscent of the pitcher he used to be, not the one he’s been most often this season, but he did limit the damage and held the St. Louis Cardinals to just two runs — and just one hit.
He refused to look back on it in a negative light on Thursday.
“You have to sit back and watch those kind of games,” Gonzalez said. “I think that watching it and taking a step back and understanding the situation — seven walks, yes — but seven walks and at the same time I kept my team in the game as long as possible. I gave them five good innings and I gave them two earned runs. All said and done, with all that damage, you look at it for what it was. I kept the team in the game.”
Even still, Gonzalez could be forgiven if he wants another opportunity to prove himself on the game’s biggest stage.
“It was my first post‑season game,” he said. “No excuses, but the way I see it is playing in someone else’s house, pretty rowdy, it’s pretty exciting. You catch yourself at the moment, take a step back and take a deep breath and try to find it again.”
If the Nationals allow him an opportunity to go again, they’ll need Gonzalez to be the type of ace they’ve asked him to be this season, especially once they shut down Stephen Strasburg in early September. Their season will rely on it.
“Our starters usually have been our strength all year long and they have been giving us quality starts all year long,” said manager Davey Johnson. “These last three games, it’s been a little rough not getting quality starts. There’s not a game plan, a really good game plan, for when you don’t get a good start from your starters.”