Do or die time for Nationals as Gio Gonzalez to start NLDS Game 5 against Cubs
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Left-hander Gio Gonzalez was picked to start Game 5 for the Washington Nationals on Thursday night in their NL Division Series against the Chicago Cubs.
The Nationals announced their pitching choice on Twitter a little less than six hours before the deciding game was scheduled to begin at their stadium.
Exactly five years ago to the day, Gonzalez was the starter in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, a contest Washington led 6-0 before losing 9-7.
"Didn't do too well," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said, "so I'm sure redemption is on his mind."
Gonzalez, 15-9 with a 2.96 ERA during the regular season, was the choice for this Game 5 over right-hander Tanner Roark, who has not made a start in the playoffs this year and was available in relief Friday.
"Everybody is on call," Baker said, adding that two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer "possibly" would be available to throw two innings if needed.
Righty Kyle Hendricks was slated to start for the Cubs. He was the winning pitcher in Chicago's 3-0 victory in Game 1 at Nationals Park, allowing only two singles in seven innings.
Gonzalez started Game 2 of the series, also in Washington, and allowed three runs in five innings of what became a 6-3 victory for the Nationals. He gave up homers to Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo, left while trailing 3-1 and did not factor in the decision.
The Nationals have never won a postseason series, exiting in the NLDS after winning NL East titles in 2012, 2014 and 2016. They lost in four games to the San Francisco Giants in 2014, then lost another Game 5 at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers last year.
The Dodgers will host Chicago or Washington in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series on Saturday.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon made one lineup tweak, replacing Ben Zobrist in the fifth spot with Albert Almora Jr.
The Nationals are sticking with the lineup Baker used for Game 4, which Washington won 5-0 on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field to avoid elimination. That includes Jayson Werth in left field and batting second, although Baker said he considered sitting the 38-year-old who is in the last season of a $126 million, seven-year contract.
Werth is hitting .071 in the NLDS, with one single in 14 at-bats.
"Jayson has been a big-game guy most of his career. So not being sentimental or anything, but trying to be a realist. ... Law of averages is on Jayson's side, big time," said Baker, a former outfielder in the majors. "I've been Jayson. And so I might have had a fit if I wasn't playing tonight."
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