Sep 28, 2013, 7:44 PM EST
Updated at 11:35 p.m.
PHOENIX — Gio Gonzalez had decided to start the Nationals’ season finale. But then once they won Saturday night’s game to ensure Davey Johnson would finish at least 300 games over the .500 mark for his career, the departing manager decided to hand the ball to Tanner Roark after all.
Gonzalez was lined up all along to pitch on normal rest, but had assumed his season was over following his last start Tuesday in St. Louis, leaving Roark to pitch Game 162. Johnson, though, noted that he hoped to finish his career 300 games over the .500 mark. In order to accomplish that, the Nationals needed to win one of their final two games at Chase Field.
Though he admittedly had already made the mental transition to offseason mode, Gonzalez talked to Johnson this weekend and decided to make one last start for his departing manager.
“I talked to Davey a little bit about it and said I think it would be nice for my body to recover and try to get ready for next year mentally,” Gonzalez said Saturday afternoon. “But it’s nice when you have the skip come up to you and say: ‘It would be truly an honor, it would nice if you went out there and pitched, not only for yourself but for me, too.’ You take that to heart. And you understand it, knowing this would be Davey’s last game. To be the last starting pitcher for him, it’s something that I can always remember.”
Gonzalez also would be shooting for a couple of statistical milestones. He needs 4 1/3 more innings to reach 200 for the third time in his career. He needs eight strikeouts to reach 200 for the second straight year.
But after the Nationals wrapped up a 2-0 victory, leaving Johnson’s career record at 1,372-1,070, the manager announced Roark will start Sunday’s game, along with backups and rookies at almost every position.
Whether Gonzalez’s season is over or not, it does appears Adam LaRoche’s is. The veteran first baseman was supposed to be in Saturday night’s lineup but was scratched with left biceps tendinitis. It’s not a serious injury, but it’s enough to keep LaRoche from playing in either of the Nationals’ final two games.
LaRoche said he first felt inflammation at the base of his left bicep, near the elbow, on Friday. The condition improved Saturday morning, but it got worse when he tried to take swings in the batting cage.
Doctors diagnosed the injury as biceps tendinitis and said it could have been caused by heavy lifting and carrying. LaRoche thinks it may have originated last weekend when he was carrying personal belongings out of his Washington home to ship back to his Kansas home for the offseason.
It’s a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the 33-year-old first baseman, who finishes with a .237 batting average, 20 homers, 62 RBI and a .735 OPS in 152 games.
“I would’ve liked to play these last two,” he said. “I fully planned on playing today. But I got treatment on it, tried to hit and it’s just not happening. So that’s that.”
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