Gonzalez under the weather, but says no excuse in 11-8 loss

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez got off to a rough start that set the tone for 11-8 Nationals loss to the Pirates that ended the regular season.

Gonzalez allowed five runs on three hits with two walks and a hit by pitch in a forgettable first inning.

“Before this start I felt great,” Gonzalez said. “This was awesome. I felt like I actually did something. Then today’s game, I did nothing. Took a couple steps back.”

Baker said one reason Gonzalez struggled might have been that he was sick before the game started.

“He was under the weather. He’s been there for a few days now,” Baker said. “I could sort of tell, because it looked kind of like he lost some weight. And early in the game, the strike zone, that was a big pitch on (Josh) Bell that looked like a strike. And that’s what led to the big inning.”

Gonzalez-Dejected-White-Sidebar.jpgGonzalez allowed six runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, with three walks and two strikeouts. He fired 93 pitches, 60 for strikes. He has now allowed 16 runs in his last four starts over a span of 21 1/3 innings. And would not let the “I’m sick” excuse enter the equation.

“No. It’s tough for Dusty to say that,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t want him to say that at all. That’s not an excuse. It’s always a tough situation to be put in the last game of the year and try to pitch for something. Yeah. It’s self-explanatory with the way this game ended. Long-ass game.”

Still, Gonzalez finished 15-9 and a 2.96 ERA, his best ERA total since 2012 when he finished 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA. He has plenty to build off of as the club prepares for the National League Division Series starting Friday against the Chicago Cubs, a full four days off. Having lost weight this week, he wants to build back his strength too.

“It’s always nice,” Gonzalez said. “You get to get back to focus, back to what you were saying and exercise you want to get back on. Try to eat as much as you can and load up on that part. Energy, everything, you want to save as much energy as possible. This is the time now, knowing this is over with, we can now get focused and get back to the task at hand, for sure.”

But with a 1-3 record to end the season, are there things Gonzalez needs to do to get his command back to the level it was when he raced out to a 14-6 record?

He said the advice given to him by Stephen Strasburg during his struggle Sunday will help him for next week. Strasburg told him to forget about the first inning and get back to work.

“This is one of those games you can’t really judge it for too much,” Gonzalez added. “For me, it was just one of those things where I can focus on what I need to do when the time comes. But this game, I had Stras kind of explain to me what this game kind of meant to me and what I could take from it.

“But turning it back on, you were trying to get through it, then turning it back on those last four innings was difficult. But we managed to get through. We got all the way to the fifth.”

Now the question of Max Scherzer’s health could affect when Gonzalez makes his first start of the next series. If Scherzer’s hamstring doesn’t react well this week, Gonzalez could start Game 2 or Game 3.

Manager Dusty Baker on Scherzer possibly moving to Game 3 start, a move that would likely place Gonzalez pitching Saturday in Game 2 against the Cubs.

“Well, maybe. It just depends on what our evaluation of him is and himself,” Baker said. “Max’s knows himself pretty well. As you can tell Max can add and subtract. He’s got it all figure out. You know Max.”

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