If the Nationals win tonight and get their way to the National League Championship Series, Jordan Zimmermann will get the ball for Game 1.
Nats manager Davey Johnson said today that Zimmermann would be his guy to open the NLCS on Sunday, this after working a perfect inning of relief yesterday and striking out all three hitters he faced.
Like Zimmermann yesterday, Edwin Jackson will be available in relief tonight because it's his throw day. Unlike Zimmermann yesterday, however, Jackson will not be used unless the game finds its way to extra innings.
"A little different scenario with Edwin," Johnson said. "Yesterday, with my bullpen kind of overused on the day before, I really needed somebody for that seventh inning, is what I was really looking for - the bridge. I didn't want to go to some of the guys out there. Certainly Christian Garcia I didn't want to go to, (Ryan) Mattheus had been working through a lot, throwing a lot of pitches and same with (Craig) Stammen. So I really needed him for that one inning.
"Jackson, on the other hand, he threw 68 pitches his last start. This would be his throw day for a start on Monday. I would use him not in (role); I feel like I have the bridge to get to (Tyler Clippard) and (Drew) Storen and Mattheus and Stammen and Garcia. So he would be somebody that I would use if we went past nine innings. So that's the only reason. But he would have to throw today, at least a side today, to be ready for Monday."
You'll notice Sean Burnett's name was not mentioned in that list of relievers. Johnson could still go to Burnett tonight, but the Nats' manager said that Burnett's pitches didn't have much movement when he worked in Game 2, allowing four runs (three earned) in 2/3 of an innings. Also, with the Cardinals being a predominantly right-handed-hitting lineup, Johnson would prefer to stick with his righty relievers.
Gio Gonzalez had been telling Johnson for days that the Nats and Cardinals were going to end up going to a Game 5, and he popped his head into Johnson's office last night and shot his skipper a smile. "See what I told ya?" Johnson recalls Gonzalez saying.
What adjustments does Gonzalez need to make coming out his his shaky start against the Cardinals in Game 1 of this series?
"The experience they go through, that's their learning curve," Johnson said. "He might have tried to do a little too much over in St. Louis, ergo all the walks. But he's a very talented young man, and he knows what he needs to do to be successful. So I just do the same thing I do normally - make sure that every time I see him, I shake his hand and I grin. And that's his preparation.
"I like him going out there whether it's here or anywhere, against anybody. He's a competitor with great stuff. He's had a phenomenal year. He's going to be right there in the Cy Young voting. I can't think of a better scenario for a big game than having him out on the rubber."