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Gio explains emotions in Game 5

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Gio explains emotions in Game 5

In the days after the St. Louis Cardinals’ win over the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS, several members of the winning team shared their opinions of what went wrong with those that lost. One statement in particular, made by an anonymous Cardinal to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez became rattled by umpire Alfonso Marquez’ strike zone. Gonzalez was seen screaming into his glove and in the direction of home plate after leaving the mound at the end of the fifth inning.

Here are the comments as they were originally published:

“A turning point came in the top of the fifth inning. Encouraged by batting coach Mark McGwire, the Cardinals began taking pitches to make Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez sweat. Gonzalez, who seemed to be feeling the pressure, began obsessing over ball-strike calls by home plate umpire Angel Marquez.

The Cardinals could see Gonzalez weakening, and that fired them up. As one Cardinal said, ‘Gio looked like he didn't want to be out there. The guy has a 6-0 lead, then 6-1, and he's panicking out there. We smelled blood.’”

Gonzalez needed 41 pitches to get out of the fifth that night after allowing two runs, one on a walk and one on a wild pitch. Gonzalez walked a total of three batters in the inning alone and along the way let the Cardinals cut the lead to three runs. 

Gonzalez was asked about the incident on Wednesday by MLB.com and defended his reaction.

"You see that I'm a very emotional guy. If you can figure that out, you can figure me out," Gonzalez said. "If [the Cardinals] found a glitch in my system, hey, they found something. But honestly, I left the game winning and we were one out away [from advancing to the National League Championship Series against the Giants]. I don't think there was too much that they figured out. That's how I see it. You are one strike away from the next level. If they figured it out after I was done, that’s pretty impressive."

Gonzalez said something similar after the Game 5 loss, that despite his off outing he still gave the team a chance to win. And with all that had to go wrong, and did, in the Nationals’ loss, it really is hard to pin it on one player. 

Gonzalez also told MLB.com he is already training for next season down in Florida. He says that with Stephen Strasburg back with the team, he likes their chances to get right back where they were at the end of 2012. But this time he hopes their experience can help prevent the same result.

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What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

It was just a few weeks ago that Joe Ross' postseason availability was in question, and if he could return in time, whether he would pitch out of the Nationals' bullpen and or as a starter wasn't clear. Manager Dusty Baker wondered aloud if he would get his young right-hander back, even as Stephen Strasburg dealt with elbow injuries.

The progress Ross has made in a short period of time since is remarkable and after his 90-pitch outing on Thursday afternoon against the Diamondbacks, the 23-year-old looks and feels ready for the playoffs, and not just to pitch in relief, either.

"I'm hoping I get the opportunity to start, but that's up to them," Ross said. "But I'll take any opportunity I get to pitch and go out there and compete. I just want to help the team in any way I can."

Ross wasn't great on Thursday in his third start back from the disabled list. He only made it four innings, as his pitch count soared early. But in giving up just one run, he's now pitched 9 2/3 innings in three games back. During that stretch he's allowed three runs and struck out 14.

[RELATED: Wilson Ramos hopes to be back with Nationals]

It has been a process of baby steps for the Nats starter, a slow progression back from right shoulder inflammation, an injury rehab that featured a setback in late July. Now, though, he is essentially back to normal, just in time for the NL Division Series which begins next week.

"I feel good. I felt really good today. I felt really good last start. I guess it's just a point of executing pitches," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind really on whether I can go out and compete."

Baker mentioned that Ross could pitch in releif early in the NLDS against the Dodgers. That could keep him available for a start later on, if it's kept short like a normal bullpen session.

But one has to wonder if Ross has improved his case enough to pitch Game 3 of that series, given Gio Gonzalez' recent struggles. The lefty has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 23 innings going back five starts.

Regardless, Ross has certainly come a long way in just three MLB outings.

"He looks ready," second baseman Wilmer Difo said through an interpreter.

With all the negative injury news the Nationals have received in recent days, between Wilson Ramos' season-ending injury and Strasburg essentially ruled out for the NLDS, having Ross fully back in the mix is a nice change of fortune for the NL East champs.

[RELATED: Matt Belisle sounds like safe bet for Nats playoff roster]

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Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos won't be on the field for the Washington Nationals when the team takes on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. Divisional Series next week.

The 2016 N.L. All-Star catcher will undergo surgery to repair the ACL he tore in his right knee on Monday night against the Diamondbacks

Ramos has been arguably the Nationals' most constant offensive threat this season, and had positioned himself as the team's backstop for the foreseeable future.

But the injury changed everything.

Not just because the surgery and rehab will stretch well into Spring Training, but because the 29-year-old Ramos will become a free agent at the end of the season. On top of that, a second ACL injury (He tore it in 2012 as well) means that taking the field everyday as a catcher may not be a viable option for him much longer.

"Unfortunately, this injury happened so close to the end and it may affect whether I’m able to stay with a National League team or not," Ramos told reporters prior to the Nationals' 5-3 win over the Diamondbacks on Thursday afternoon.

"But if it’s up to me, I definitely would like to keep playing for the Nationals and play as long as I can."

Ramos is a solid defensive catcher, but his biggest strength is at the plate. Being able to be a part of a lineup everyday is where he is most valuable, and that may mean playing in the American League, where he can serve as the designated hitter and fill in as catcher.

But this doesn't mean Ramos is done as a member of the Nationals, just that he's aware his time could be coming to an end.