WASHINGTON — With Stephen Strasburg not expected to pitch in the National League Division Series and Joe Ross not yet fully stretched out after a two-month layoff, the Nationals are counting on Gio Gonzalez to come through in the playoffs.
But in his final start of the regular season, Gonzalez struggled with his command and quickly built a high-pitch count in a 3-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a rain-shortened game Wednesday.
The start of the game was delayed 33 minutes by rain and was later called with one out in the top of the sixth inning after a second delay of 70 minutes.
“It wasn’t that good, but we didn’t score any runs either,” manager Dusty Baker said of Gonzalez’s outing. “He had a lot of pitches in a short period of time. He was 0-2 on a couple guys, then went to 3-2. Most of the night he pitched behind.”
The NL East-champion Nationals have lost two of three to the last-place Diamondbacks and seven of their last 11 games overall.
Shelby Miller threw five shutout innings for Arizona and Jean Segura had three hits to reach 200 for the season.
Miller (3-12) capped an otherwise forgetful season with one of his best outings of the year, allowing five hits with one walk and striking out five. In his previous start, Sept.23 in Baltimore, Miller threw six scoreless innings in a no decision.
“I wish maybe I would have done this earlier on but the way I just finished these past couple games is huge and just something to build off going into 2017,” Miller said after earning his first win since June 20.
“I just feel good where I’m at. I know where I’m at mechanically and stuff so I can go forward into 2017 with more confidence and knowing that I’m feeling good.”
Segura joined Luis Gonzalez as the only players in Diamondbacks history with 200 hits in a season.
“Just a great feeling,” Segura said. “It’s amazing especially since I’ve been bouncing around the couple last years. I’m impressed, I’m not going to lie to you guys, I’m impressed with the way I’ve been swinging the bat this season. I don’t think nobody expect I’d have the season I’m having right now.”
Gonzalez (11-11), Washington’s projected No. 3 starter in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, tossed 3 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs with four walks and four strikeouts.
Baker noted that while the Diamondbacks had a first-ball hitting approach against Max Scherzer on Tuesday, they had a different game plan against the inconsistent Gonzalez Wednesday.
“Tonight, they were taking, getting deep in the count,” Baker said. “They ran his pitch count up. They didn’t swing at very many balls and it looked like they were trying to wait on his fastball.”
The lefty threw 100 pitches, but just 56 for strikes.
“I had some 0-2s that ended up getting soft hits through the hole so it’s just a tough situation,” Gonzalez said. “Just can’t do nothing about it. Learn to pitch ahead of the count.
In his final five starts of the season, Gonzalez allowed 19 earned runs in 23 innings (7.43 ERA) with a 1.78 WHIP.
“You start the postseason with a zero ERA,” he said. “It’s a new series. New way to look at it.”
PITCHING FOR A FALLEN FRIEND
Before taking the mound for his final start of the season, Gonzalez said a prayer and pointed to the sky as a tribute to his friend Jose Fernandez, who died Sunday in a boating accident. Gonzalez, a Cuban-American, will leave the Nationals on Thursday to attend Fernandez’s funeral in South Florida.
Diamondbacks: RHP Zack Greinke did not accompany the Diamondbacks on their final road trip of the season due to right shoulder soreness. Manager Chip Hale said Wednesday that Greinke is not throwing and he is not expected to pitch again this season.
Nationals: Outfielder Bryce Harper was not in the Nationals’ starting lineup for a third straight game because of an injured left thumb. Harper is considered day to day, but manager Dusty Baker said that he did not want to risk the NL MVP in a wet outfield.
Nationals RHP Joe Ross (7-5, 3.48 ERA) is scheduled to make his third start since returning from the disabled list Sept.18 against Diamondbacks LHP Robby Ray (8-14, 4.77).
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