WASHINGTON -- The Nationals are placing their hopes for their first playoff series win in the hands of Gio Gonzalez, who will start tonight against the Cubs in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile at Nationals Park.
Gonzalez will pitch on regular rest after starting Game 2 on Saturday, when he allowed three earned runs over five innings in the Nationals' 6-3 win. He'll face Kyle Hendricks, who started and won Game 1 after pitching seven scoreless innings.
The winner of Game 5 advances to face the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series presented by Camping World.
This will be Gonzalez's third career start with the Nationals facing postseason elimination. He previously started Game 5 against the Cardinals in the 2012 NLDS and Game 4 vs. the Giants in '14. Washington lost both games, with Gonzalez pitching a combined nine innings and allowing five runs (three earned).
Nats manager Dusty Baker cited Gonzalez's success this season and his experience pitching in those games as reasons for tabbing the lefty to start Game 5.
"So I'm sure redemption is on his mind, as well," Baker said.
The leash on Gonzalez is almost certain to be short. The Nationals have extra help in the bullpen with Tanner Roark, the club's other option to start Game 5, and Max Scherzer both available. Roark would likely be the first reliever out of the 'pen if Gonzalez struggles early in the game.
Baker also said Scherzer, who would be pitching on two days' rest after starting Game 3 on Monday at Wrigley Field, could be available for possibly two innings out of the bullpen if needed.
"Max had the backpack on like the bullpen groupie guys do," Baker said with a laugh. "Probably filled with candy and bubblegum, and all kinds of -- I don't know what they have in there. Looks kind of weird, Max getting ready to go to school again."