In the aftermath of the Washington Nationals’ clinching the National League East Monday night, manager Davey Johnson sidled up to a champagne-sipping Tom Gorzelanny and told him not to go overboard.
“I said ‘Don’t drink too much of it,’” Johnson said Tuesday. Gorzelanny got the start in place of Gio Gonzalez, who will not start again before Game 1 of the National League Division Series, which will begin either Saturday or Sunday depending on the Nationals’ overall seed.
Johnson announced officially on Tuesday that Gonzalez would be his Game 1 starter, regardless of opponent, and Jordan Zimmermann will start Game 2. What order Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson will go after that will be determined based on who the Nationals play.
Against the Atlanta Braves it would likely be Detwiler No. 3, Jackson No. 4 and against either the St. Louis Cardinals or the San Francisco Giants the other way around.
Neither Gonzalez nor Zimmermann will pitch in a game before their first playoff appearances this coming weekend. They will both get extra rest and do only side work and a bullpen session before their starts. Gonzalez has started on six-plus days of rest in his career 16 times. He has a 5.59 ERA in those starts. Zimmermann has started 15 games on six or more days of rest and he has a 3.74 ERA in those starts.
Gonzalez will be pitching on eight or nine days of rest and Zimmermann, who last pitched on Saturday, will be on seven or eight days of rest.
The Nationals had been planning to throw Gonzalez in Tuesday’s game, even for just a few innings, as his final tuneup before the postseason. But because the team could begin the playoffs on Saturday, they were wary of running the risk that he’d be overworked.
Hanging above Gorzelanny’s locker in the clubhouse on Tuesday was a sign “Every #161 is my game!” — play on Gonzalez’s ad in which he says “Every fifth day is my day.”
“I was mentally prepared, I was ready to go today just in case anything happened,” Gonzalez said. “But just look at it now, we’re division champs, which is the most important thing. It just gave me a couple extra days to rest up and try to get ready for Game 1.
“Just one of those things where we feel confident with Tom on the mound today for us. He’ll go out there and try to get us a W. We’ve still got two more games left. And until then, we’ll see what happens on Saturday.”
Gonzalez admitted it’ll be a learning curve for him going into the playoffs and he was unsure how he’d work with so many days between starts, but he was excited for the challenge.
“It means a lot (to be the Game 1 starter),” he said. “Especially with such a great rotation we have, some guys that could easily take that and deserve it. I’m just grateful to even be mentioned in that conversation. If they feel like they want me to put out in the first one, I’m going to give it all I’ve got. I’m going to make sure they made the right decision and make sure I either minimize the damage or at least keep us in the game.”