Despite all the madness that went on in the Nationals’ clubhouse last night, it looked good as new this afternoon.
The only indication that gallons of champagne, beer, juice and water had been spilled everywhere just 16 hours earlier was the faint odor of beer. Clubhouse manager Mike Wallace stayed until 5:30 this morning cleaning up, and a cleaning crew worked through the night to get the place looking nice and spiffy by the time players showed up this afternoon.
Gio Gonzalez got to the park knowing he won’t pitch tonight, but it’s official: He’ll be the Nationals’ Game 1 starter in the Division Series of the playoffs.
Manager Davey Johnson has discussed a variety of options for his postseason rotation over the last week or so, but he said definitively today that Gonzalez will get the ball for Game 1, with Jordan Zimmermann then getting the Game 2 start.
“It means a lot,” Gonzalez said of getting the Game 1 start. “Especially with such a great rotation we have, some guys that could easily take that and deserve it. I’m just grateful to even be mentioned in that conversation. If they feel like they want me to put out in the first one, so I’m going to give it all I’ve got. I’m going to make sure they made the right decision.”
The Nats now have to wait and see whether the end up with the No. 1 seed in the NL, which would have them opening on Sunday against the Braves or Cardinals, or whether they get the No. 2 seed and head out west to face the Giants for a series which will start Saturday.
Johnson will then determine the rest of his playoff rotation based on who the Nats face. If they play the Giants or Cardinals, it will be Edwin Jackson who will start Game 3, given that both those teams have had a lot of success against left-handed starters. If it’s the Braves who the Nats see in the Division Series, it’ll be a lefty, Ross Detwiler, who starts Game 3, with Jackson then going Game 4.
Because Gonzalez isn’t pitching tonight, he’ll need to put in some extra work in the upcoming days in order to be prepared for his postseason start. The Nats had discussed having Gonzalez start today and work just a couple innings, but they went against that idea.
“That was a consideration, but since we could play Saturday, that ended up not being a consideration,” Johnson said. “And also, (pitching coach Steve) McCatty felt like Gio would be better served, when he talked to him, just throwing (off) flat ground and then Saturday or Sunday, prepare. We won’t know that until Wednesday.”
Gonzalez has pitched on six or more days rest four times this season, so he’s familiar with adjusting to extra days in between starts. This will be an exaggerated case, though, as Gonzalez will open the Division Series pitching on either nine or 10 days rest.
“It can work either way,” Gonzalez said. “You get too much rest, you don’t know how you’re going to feel. Not enough rest, it could be hit or miss. But at this point, it’s a learning curve for me. I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m going to try to go out there and try some ‘pens and long toss and do whatever I gotta do to get back in shape. Keep watching video. Keep watching these guys pitch. Just mentally get myself where I need to be. We’ll see how it goes.”
As for Tom Gorzelanny, who gets the start in Gonzalez’s place tonight, he needed to temper his celebration last night once he got word from Johnson that he’d be getting the ball tonight.
“I told him last night when he was drinking some champagne, I said ‘Don’t drink too much of it,’ ” Johnson laughed.
Gorzelanny sat in the Nationals’ clubhouse this afternoon with a sign posted on the top of his locker, one put there by his lockermate Sean Burnett.
“Game #161 is My Game! - Tom Gorzelanny,” the sign read.
He’ll have a bit of an unusual group of position players behind him, but Johnson felt it was necessary to rest most of his starters today.
“I’m rewarding the guys that have been grinding through a tough schedule,” Johnson said. “Give ‘em a little step back, gather your thoughts, gear back up tomorrow and go from there.”