Gio Gonzalez won't get a chance to notch his 22nd win of the regular season. He'll have to settle for a chance to notch the very first win of the postseason.
Gonzalez was scratched from his scheduled start tonight against the Phillies and told to begin preparing to take the mound for Game 1 of the National League Division Series, which will be played either Saturday in San Francisco or Sunday in Atlanta, St. Louis or Los Angeles.
"It means a lot," the left-hander said of his designation as the Nationals' postseason ace. "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, I'm going to give it all I've got."
Davey Johnson made his decision official this afternoon, confirming Gonzalez will start Game 1 of the NLDS, with Jordan Zimmermann starting Game 2. The order of the rest of the Nationals' rotation will depend on their first-round opponent.
"If it's Atlanta, we'll probably go with a lefty," the manager said. "If it's St. Louis, probably [Edwin] Jackson. I'll figure that out. I haven't really gone into all the match-ups. That's just in my head."
Gonzalez could have started tonight's game and still kept himself in line to pitch Sunday. But the possibility of a Saturday start to the postseason convinced Johnson to skip his ace's regular-season finale and tell him to begin preparing for this weekend.
Gonzalez isn't entirely sure what his preparation will entail, when he'll throw off a bullpen mound since he may not know until tomorrow night when the game will be played.
"That's one of those things me and [pitching coach Steve McCatty] are going to have to sit down and talk about. Again, this is a learning curve for me. I don't know know how to prepare myself for something like this. Some way, somehow I'll find it and I'll try to figure it out. We've got guys who can lead the way and can help lead me where I need to be."
Nationals (60-42) vs. Giants (59-43) at AT&T Park
The Nationals hung on two beat the Giants in the opener on Thursday night despite a finish that was anything but smooth. On Friday, they will look to win their third straight game overall with Max Scherzer (10-6, 2.92) on the mound.
Scherzer has been brilliant as of late with just four earned runs allowed across his last five starts (34.1 IP). He struck out 10 in seven innings against the Padres his last time out.
Behind Scherzer will be a new-look lineup with Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa all getting the day off. Ben Revere is in center, Clint Robinson is at first base and Wilmer Difo is in at shortstop.
They will face Jeff Samardzija (9-6, 4.22), who has allowed at least four earned runs in five of his last six starts and in seven of his last 10.
First pitch: 10:15 p.m.
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats -Max Scherzer vs. Giants - Jeff Samardzija
CF Ben Revere
RF Bryce Harper
2B Daniel Murphy
C Wilson Ramos
LF Jayson Werth
1B Clint Robinson
3B Anthony Rendon
SS Wilmer Difo
RHP Max Scherzer
CF Denard Span
LF Angel Pagan
2B Joe Panik
SS Brandon Crawford
1B Brandon Belt
3B Connor Gillaspie
RF Gregor Blanco
C Trevor Brown
RHP Jeff Samardzija
The Nationals will be without Jose Lobaton for at least a few days, as they placed the backup catcher on the disabled list Friday retroactive to July 20. Lobaton is dealing with left elbow tendinitis.
Taking his place on the roster will be catcher Pedro Severino, who was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse. This is Severino's second stint with the Nats this season.
Lobaton, 31, takes a break after holding a .194 average with one homer and three RBI through 22 games. He last played on July 19 against the Dodgers and has only appeared in four games this month.
Severino, 23, only made one appearance with the Nats when he replaced Wilson Ramos, who went on the bereavement list in late April. Severino also played two games with the Nationals last season.
Known more for his defensive abilities, Severino has a .259 average with two homers and 17 RBI in 73 games at Triple-A this season.
MASNsports.com first reported Severino's call-up.
[RELATED: Papelbon's job as Nats closer now a real question]
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The Nationals are very interested in acquiring a closer before the trade deadline on Monday.
The hang up has been — as it was with a potential deal for Aroldis Chapman — with the number of pieces they would have to give up in the process.
While keeping all of their top prospects would be ideal, a source close to the MLB's Jon Morosi believes the Nationals would be willing to trade 22-year-old RHP Lucas Giolito to the Yankees for 31-year-old closer Andrew Miller.
RELATED: WHO ARE THE NATS' TOP TRADE DEADLINE TARGETS?
The Yankees had previously insisted that they would be keeping Miller, but with the team looking to stockpile young talent for the future, a one-for-one trade would do them well. But having just dealt Chapman, the Yankees may want more in return, which the Nationals have balked at in recent talks.
But Miller would be an upgrade from the Nationals' current situation.
Jonathan Papelbon has been shaky and inconsistent as of late, and while Shawn Kelley has been capable of spot closing duties, it is clear that the team is deficient in that department. Miller only has nine saves this season, but has played second fiddle to Chapman and his blistering pitch speed. Miller has a 1.39 ERA and has struck out 77 batters this season.
Miller is a good closer, but is he worth giving up a bona fide top prospect in Lucas Giolito?
According to fellow MLB Network reporter Jon Heyman, the Yankees reportedly think it's the other way around.
One thing is for sure, the answer will become clear by the end of the weekend.
RELATED: NATS' INTERESTED IN PIRATES' ALL-STAR CLOSER