Nats turn to Gonzalez in Game 5

Nats turn to Gonzalez in Game 5
October 12, 2012, 1:15 pm
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After their blowout loss in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, multiple Nationals players mentioned how significant a win in Game 4 would be, not only because of the obvious staving off of elimination but because it would allow them to get the ball back in their ace's hand for a decisive Game 5.

"If we win one game," Ryan Zimmerman said, "we have a good chance with our guy on the mound."

"Our guy," of course, is Gio Gonzalez, who now gets a chance to start the final game of this taut series against the Cardinals, erase the memory of his shaky Game 1 outing and propel the Nationals to a date with the Giants in the National League Championship Series.

Members of the organization have been referring to Gonzalez as "our guy" and "our ace" for weeks now, even before Stephen Strasburg was shut down in early-September and putting the onus on the left-hander to lead this pitching staff down the stretch and into the postseason.

And for good reason. No team in baseball was more successful with one starter on the mound this year than the Nationals were with Gonzalez. His 21 wins led the majors, but so did the 24-8 record this team posted in games started by Gonzalez.

They even managed to win Game 1 of this series despite their No. 1 starter's stunning loss of command: seven walks issued in five innings.

Gonzalez has chosen to focus not on the negative from that outing but the positive: the fact he was able to cobble together five innings and allow only two runs to score, keeping his team in the game.

"When you look at it, all said and done, seven walks, yeah, but you have five innings and two earned runs to a team that their starting pitcher went 5 2/3 and gave up one," he said. "It was a good battle between two pitchers. You find the strike zone, some way, somehow. It was my first postseason game. No excuses. But the way I see it is, playing in someone else's house, pretty rowdy, it's pretty exciting. You catch yourself at the moment, take a step back and take a deep breath and try to find it again."

The Nationals must hope Gonzalez is able to find "it" tonight and extend an already remarkable season at least another week.