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“I think he’ll be pumped up, but you know, with Gio, pumped up is a good thing for him,” said catcher Kurt Suzuki, who’s caught Gonzalez in 69 more big league games than anyone else. “I think he likes that attention. I think he likes that everybody’s here and the focus is on him. He’s in there, he wants to be that guy. I think it’s going to be good. I think Gio will feed off of that. He likes the energy. The postseason, obviously the first one, there’s going to be nerves. But I think Gio will be fine.”

“He’ll be alright,” Jackson said. “I’ll tell him, ‘Just breathe. Just relax. Do what you do.’”

What that means is perform in a manner that only the game’s elite did this season. The Cardinals have spent the season making mincemeat of plenty of left-handed pitching. But Gonzalez has been doing the same against right-handed batters. In his only start against the Cardinals this season, Gonzalez held St. Louis’ right-handers to 2-for-23 (.087) and pitched a shutout.

“He’s good,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. “I mean, there’s no getting around it. Each one of our guys on offense has to have a very clear approach of what he wants to do and what he needs to do in order to try to be successful.”

Ultimately, the Nationals don’t know how any of their playoff virgins will react until they throw them out there and they get a chance to figure it out for themselves. The same goes for Gonzalez on extra rest, or pitching in temperatures perhaps even colder than in Oakland in the summer.

“The only thing we can do is wait to see tomorrow,” Suzuki said.

“I heard it’s going to be 65 and sunny,” Gonzalez quipped. “So turn the heaters on.”