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.