Just because the Los Angeles Dodgers have released their playoff rotation plans for the NL Division Series, doesn't mean the Nationals are ready to do the same.
Manager Dusty Baker remained coy about who will start for the Nats opposite Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda. He doesn't see any reason to do so until he absolutely has to.
"Just because they did it doesn't mean we've gotta do it. Hey man, they can do what they want to do. I don't really see a point in releasing it so early," he said. "That's nobody's business right now. We'll tell you when we tell you."
Okay, fair enough. We already know who will be pitching Game 1, barring something extraordinary. Max Scherzer will be getting the ball for that one. The same for Tanner Roark in Game 2.
Game 3 is where it gets interesting, though lefty Gio Gonzalez is emerging as the favorite there. GM Mike Rizzo dropped that hint on 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday morning. That would leave Joe Ross for Game 4, unless the Nats opt to pitch Scherzer on short rest, which they have indicated they don't want to do.
"It's probably no secret anyways, other than when you get past No. 2 and 3," Baker said. "Gio's penciled in anyway."
So, when will the Nationals announce their rotation? Technically, they can wait until next week, as playoff rosters don't have to be revealed until the morning of Game 1.
"We haven't talked about it yet. We have to talk about it as a staff before we let you guys know. We'll probably do that on Friday, then we'll let you know," Baker said.
Baker circled back to Gonzalez on Wednesday with the lefty set to make his final regular season start later that night. Gonzalez has reverted back to inconsistency with 14 earned runs allowed in 19 1/3 innings across his last four starts. That followed a stretch of 11 outings from the beginning of July through August where he had a 3.16 ERA.
Baker is preferring to look at Gonzalez with glass half-full optimism as the team enters the postseason.
"Let's not expect bad out of Gio. I'm expecting good out of Gio. I told him when the season started that he was the main key to this ballclub. I didn't know he would be the main key at this point in time coming into these playoffs, but Gio can put him and us on the map with the way he performs," he said.
Gonzalez does have a strong track record against the Dodgers, who happen to feature a lefty-heavy lineup. Gonzalez held them to one run through six innings back in July. And since 2012, he has eight runs in 32 innings against L.A. Certainly, Baker and the Nats would like some more of that.
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Nats (92-65) vs. Diamondbacks (65-92) at Nationals Park
The Nationals have reached their final five games of the regular season, which means each start made by their rotation will be that pitcher's final tuneup for the playoffs. On Wednesday, it's Gio Gonzalez (11-10, 4.51) on the mound making his final start before he likely pitches in Game 3 against the Dodgers. The lefty will be making his 32nd start of the season.
That is, of course, if weather permits. Heavy rain is in the forecast and Wednesday night's game could be affected by it. If Gonzalez can't pitch due to the weather, he will skip his start to attend Jose Fernandez' funeral in Florida.
Bryce Harper (thumb) and Daniel Murphy (buttock) remain out of the Nationals' lineup. Harper could have played, but the Nats want to play it safe on the wet field given what happened to Wilson Ramos on Monday.
First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Gio Gonzalez vs. Diamondbacks - Shelby Miller
2B Trea Turner
CF Ben Revere
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Clint Robinson
LF Jayson Werth
RF Brian Goodwin
SS Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
LHP Gio Gonzalez
2B Jean Segura
SS Chris Owings
1B Paul Goldschmidt
C Welington Castillo
LF Brandon Drury
RF Yasmany Tomas
3B Jake Lamb
CF Mitch Haniger
RHP Shelby Miller