PHOENIX — When it came time for Gio Gonzalez to make his decision — let Tuesday stand as his final start of the season or take the mound one more time in a game his manager had let it known was important to him — Gonzalez opted for the sentimental approach.
The left-hander will start for the Nationals on Sunday in their season finale. He will attempt to reach the 200-inning mark (which he needs only 4 1/3 innings to do) and surpass the 200-strikeouts mark (which he will need at least eight to do).
And he’ll remember it, because he’ll start the last game Johnson manages for the Nationals.
“That, to me, is truly an honor,” Gonzalez said. “For me that’s a milestone… You want to be the one to make sure you give him a nice exit.”
“If he can find somebody to give him a haircut he might be able to post,” Johnson joked.
There was a time this week that Gonzalez did not think he would start again, thinking his start Tuesday night was the end.
“I was packed up, ready to go,” Gonzalez said. “We talked about it and I said, ‘I think it would be nice for me to let my body recover and try to get ready for next year mentally, but it’s nice when you have the Skip come up to you and say ‘It’d be truly an honor for you to go out and pitch, not only for yourself but for me too.’
“You take that to heart. This will be Davey’s last game. To be the last starting pitcher for him, it’s something I’ll never forget.”
– First baseman Adam LaRoche’s season was ended a few days early when he tried to get his left arm loose in the batting cage on Saturday and could not shake a swollen feeling in his left biceps.
He was scratched from Saturday’s lineup, and Johnson said he will not play LaRoche on Sunday.
“He’s done,” Johnson said.
“It just feels swollen, like it’s kind of pinching,” LaRoche said. “Everything’s totally fine until I go to fully extend. I can take a half-swing but when I fully extend my arm it stretches. I felt it yesterday, too.”