WASHINGTON (AP) — A day after clinching the NL East, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson rested most of his regular lineup — and saved left-hander Gio Gonzalez for Game 1 of the playoffs.
Gonzalez originally was slated to start Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies, if the next-to-last game of the regular season still mattered for the division title.
But with that championship wrapped up Monday, Johnson decided to make sure Gonzalez, who is 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA, is fresh for Washington's NL division series opener.
Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 2.94) will pitch Game 2. Johnson will wait to decide whether to use right-hander Edwin Jackson or left-hander Ross Detwiler in Game 3.
The Nationals still don't know which team they'll face to begin the postseason or which day they'll open play. It could be Saturday (in which case Gonzalez would only have had three days' rest had he pitched Tuesday against Philadelphia) or Sunday.
"I know that they have high hopes for me, and it's one of those things where you take it as an honor. They've got something planned for me, and I want to go out there and try to show this team that I'm going to go out there and try to do the best I can," Gonzalez said. "I want to get enough rest, but not too much."
Another lefty, reliever Tom Gorzelanny, was picked by Johnson to start Tuesday's game instead and was expected to go about three or four innings before turning it over to other members of the bullpen. A marker-on-paper sign hanging in Gorzelanny's locker in the Nationals Park clubhouse before the game read: "Game (hash)161 is my game!"