ST. LOUIS — When the Washington Nationals arrived in St. Louis on Monday, manager Davey Johnson said he’d made up his mind for how the rest of the Nationals’ starting rotation was going to line up. The Nationals hadn’t yet been eliminated from postseason contention, that would come later that night, but Johnson said even if it did he planned on putting his best foot forward in each of the team’s remaining games.
His rotation for the final series in Phoenix, then, would go Stephen Strasburg, Dan Haren, Gio Gonzalez. Because of an off day on Thursday, Gonzalez would be lined up on regular rest to squeeze one more start into his season, instead of keeping Tanner Roark in the No. 5 spot on an extra day of rest.
But Wednesday, after Gonzalez’s strong seven-inning performance on Tuesday became a footnote in Michael Wacha’s near no-hit bid, Johnson said that “Nothing’s final yet.”
“We’ll see how he came out of last night,” Johnson said of Gonzalez. “See if we get to Arizona and if he feels like he can make it. If he can’t, obviously it’ll be Roark.”
Johnson said Gonzalez was not dealing with any ailment that he knew of, but left the door open that it was the left-hander’s call if he wanted one more start or not this season.
If Johnson has his way, Gonzalez will start.
Gonzalez is just 4.1 innings away from reaching the 200-inning mark for the third time in his career (in 2012 he threw 199.1, but added 10 more in the playoffs), and he is only eight strikeouts away from crossing the 200-strikeout plateau — both milestones Johnson would like to give his pitcher an opportunity to achieve.
Stephen Strasburg is set to start on Friday, regardless, and Dan Haren on Saturday in each of their final starts of the season. Saturday could be Haren’s final start in a Nationals uniform as well as he is a free agent after the season.