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Nats turn to Gonzalez in Game 5


Nats turn to Gonzalez in Game 5

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.

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Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper struggled by his standards in 2016 and he says he know why it happened last year. While it was rumored last season that he was playing through injuries, Harper never really missed significant time, nor did he really say that his injuries were the reason for his disappointing numbers. 

Speaking with the media today at spring training, Harper hinted at his injuries from last season as he said he was just trying to stay in the lineup every day.  

Although Harper's statistics dropped off dramatically from his MVP season in 2015, his numbers weren't entirely awful last year. He still hit 24 homers, drove in 86 runs and he had an .814 OPS. 

With a full offseason to heal up, Harper will be a prime bounce-back candidate as he looks to help the Nationals win their third NL East title in the last four years. 

Related: Sorry D.C. sports fans, Bryce Harper is a Dallas Cowboys fan

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Nationals' Max Scherzer says he may not be ready for season opener

Nationals' Max Scherzer says he may not be ready for season opener

The Nationals aren't certain to have ace Max Scherzer ready to pitch for Opening Day. Scherzer, 32, was unable to compete in the World Baseball Classic this summer due to a stress fracture in his right ring finger. 

When he spoke to the media today at the first bullpen session of spring training, he said that the fracture has healed but the symptoms continue. 

Scherzer also said he'd just started throwing again this week. Manager Dusty Baker confimed that the Nationals don't know whether Scherzer will be ready to start the season. 

Any time a team's star pitcher suffers an unusual hand injury, it's cause for concern for the club and fans. 

Scherzer won the NL Cy Young Award last season and posted a 20-7 record as a starter. He also led the MLB with 284 strikeouts. 

Scherzer is an especially vital part of the Nationals rotation considering the injury history of Stephen Strasburg, who landed on the DL twice last season, once with soreness in the elbow that needed Tommy John surgery in 2010.