Quick Links

Gonzalez to start Game 1 of NLDS

825817.png

Gonzalez to start Game 1 of NLDS

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."

Quick Links

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year

Quick Links

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE