NLCS Game #1 Gio Gonzalez is the “Opener” for the Nats Brewers

Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

For fans of the Washington Nationals, they have seen Gio Gonzalez pitch in four NLDS for their team, and his record in his 6-starts is 0-0. Gonzalez never factored into a decision in any of the games and finished his Nats career with a 4.78 ERA overall (6.57 in his last 3-starts) and a 1.481 WHIP. For Milwaukee Brewers fans, they will get their first taste of Gio starting a post-season game, but he could be in the game for a quick cameo as an “opener” pitching a few innings or less. The last game Gonzalez pitched in was back in the regular season when he threw only 74-pitches on September 30th. He has had 12-games of rest, and the Brewers are hoping for him to give them shutout innings to get the game to their vaunted bullpen. 

The Brewers plan on starting lefties in both Game 1 and 2 of the NLCS against the lefty dominated Dodgers line-up with Gio tonight and Wade Miley tomorrow. For the Dodgers, they will pitch Clayton Kershaw on two extra days of rest. As we saw in the NLDS, the Dodgers pitched Kershaw in Game 2 so he could pitch on extra rest where statistically he had superior stats and Kershaw did not disappoint as he threw a dominant 8-inning 2-hit shutout against the Atlanta Braves. Kershaw actually took the mound in the 9th inning, but was pulled once the Braves inserted a righty pinch-hitter.

Both teams are heavy into the analytics, and the Brewers seem to be following the 2015 Royals formula that they won a World Series with in which their starters do not have to go deep, and the goal is to get the game to bullpen with a lead.

“We like the match-up against their lineup,” Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell said. “We haven’t made massive tweaks to Gio. It’s been very small tweaks. I think he just got into a spot where it’s simply a fresh start…You’ve gotta prove yourself, even if you’re an established Major Leaguer.”

What is that proof that Counsell is looking for? Watch and see how the Brewers’ manager approaches Gio’s start. In the decisive game of last year’s NLDS, Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker let Gio go 3-innings of 3-run baseball in which Gonzalez walked 4 batters and gave up 3-hits, but the worst part might have been the two wild pitches and the fact that Gonzalez was left in the game past the first inning when he faced 8-batters and stranded bases loaded and was fortunate to finish the inning only giving up 1-run.

The Dodgers have an old-school strategy that their ace who is rested can beat your team, and there was a time when Clayton Kershaw was the best regular season pitcher in baseball and in a 7-year span was a top-5 in Cy Young voting each of those years while winning 3 Cy Young awards.

“When it comes down to the post-season, you just have to win games,” Kershaw said.

That’s it. Win games, and the Dodgers are the reigning NL champs.

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