ST. LOUIS — It was almost exactly six months ago that the Washington Nationals settled into Wrigley Field for Opening Day and took two of three from the Chicago Cubs. It was the beginning of the most successful season in team history, the most successful season in baseball this year.
But in order for it to continue along that path, they have to throw all of those accolades away. The Nationals are 0-0, the St. Louis Cardinals are 0-0. Their National League Division Series starts this afternoon, and only what happens from here forward matters.
“If you lose out all that gets washed away, or if you win all that gets washed away,” said right-hander Edwin Jackson. “At this point, the regular season is over. Now, everybody is starting out 0-0 with no numbers. It’s what can you do now?”
Game 1 is at 3:07 p.m. (eastern) and we have a host of coverage in today’s Washington Times to keep you busy until then, so here are some quick links:
Gio Gonzalez ready for Game 1 start vs. Cardinals: Gio Gonzalez trembled as he walked into the interview room at Busch Stadium Saturday afternoon. The first playoff start of his professional career was 24 hours away. He stood as the ace of the pitching staff that had been the best in baseball for the majority of the 2012 season. It’d be normal – natural even – if the left-hander was a little nervous. “Hold on guys, let me heat up real fast,” said Gonzalez, a Hialeah, Fla., native who wasn’t expecting the fall-like – if not darn near wintry – temperatures in St. Louis this weekend. He rubbed his hands together to create a little heat. “It’s not my nerves,” he added with a laugh to the roomful of reporters. “It’s just the cold.” But Gonzalez will have to battle both, as well as the right-handed-heavy lineup of the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon when the Nationals send him to the mound to open the organization’s first playoff series.Read the full story here.
Postseason experience not on Nationals’ side: Entering the Division Series opener, only four of the 25 players on the Nationals’ active roster have playoff experience. It will be up to Jayson Werth, Edwin Jackson, Adam LaRoche and Michael Gonzalez – along with the inactive DeRosa – to try and explain something nearly everyone in the opposing dugout will already have experienced. A whopping 19 of the players on the Cardinals’ active roster have appeared in the postseason, most of them last season as St. Louis took a wild-card berth and ran with it all the way to victory over the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the World Series. Will having lived through that give the Cardinals an edge in this series? Read the full story by Marc Lancaster here.
Controversy follows infield fly rule Nationals - Cardinals NLDS: To a man, the Nationals insisted they didn’t care if they faced the Braves or Cardinals. Matchups didn’t matter. They watched as fans. The high drama and higher stakes attracted them. But the game also opened the mystery of when, exactly, is an appropriate time for an umpire to call an infield fly. A full understanding of the rule is tough to find in a clubhouse. “I don’t really know the rule,” Zimmerman admitted. “I don’t fully know the rule,” LaRoche concurred. “It’s so hard to argue against,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said, “because it’s based on (the umpire’s) judgement.” Read the full story by Nathan Fenno here.
Stephen Strasburg is going to be a playoff bystander and Adam Wainwright knows how he feels: Stephen Strasburg went through the Washington Nationals’ workout Saturday afternoon much the way he has everyday since Sept. 8. He was a part of it, but on the periphery. He is not on the Nationals’ NLDS roster. He will not pitch for them in the playoffs. It’s a feeling fellow Tommy John survivor Adam Wainwright knows all too well. Wainwright, who will start for the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS on Sunday afternoon against Gio Gonzalez, was in exactly the same position during the Cardinals’ 2011 World Series run. Read the full story here.
Breaking down the Nationals’ final NLDS roster: In truth the Nationals had very few difficult decisions to make when it came to parsing the roster back from 33 to 25 for their first playoff series. According to a team source, the Nationals decided to go with four starting pitchers, eight relievers and 13 position players (eight regulars, five bench players). Mark DeRosa, John Lannan, Eury Perez, Corey Brown, Sandy Leon, Chien-Ming Wang, Zach Duke and Stephen Strasburg will not be on the active roster. Making the cut instead were right-hander Christian Garcia, rookie outfielder/infielder Tyler Moore and left-handed long man Tom Gorzelanny. Read the full story complete with a roster chart here.
Davey Johnson still mending from back problem: The back problem that left Davey Johnson’s left leg numb and forced him from Wednesday’s regular-season finale is improving. Some feeling has returned to the leg, the Nationals manager said before Saturday’s workout at Busch Stadium. Read the full story here.
Nationals-Cardinals rotations finally set: The Nats already had announced Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann as their starters for Games 1 and 2 at Busch Stadium, and Johnson said today Edwin Jackson would start Game 3 in Washington and Ross Detwiler would follow in Game 4. For the Cardinals, Adam Wainwright in the opener, followed by Jaime Garcia in Monday’s Game 2, the veteran Chris Carpenter for Game 3 in D.C. and wild-card starter Kyle Lohse in Game 4. Read the full story here.
Notes from the workout: A collection of notes and bits and pieces from the Nationals and Cardinals workouts on Saturday. Read the full story here