Gio's Turn

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My first guest blog of the season for MASNsports.com is live and you can read it here if you are so inclined. On Citizens of Natstown today we're going to focus on one of the starting pitchers in the Nats rotation, Gio Gonzalez. Tonight Gonzalez will take the mound against his hometown Miami Marlins. Miami is a city that was featured heavily in Gonzalez's off-season. It is there that Biogenesis is located and it is there that Gio Gonzalez led team USA to a victory over team Puerto Rico.    

By all accounts MLB has cleared Gonzalez of any wrong doing in the matter of Biogenesis, but that doesn't mean everyone was paying attention. It is a much flashier story when a player is linked to PEDs than when it turns out that the first reports were more than likely wrong. Employees of Biogenesis claimed Gio Gonzalez never received any PEDs from them and he passed the blood and urine test MLB gave him in the off-season. That doesn't mean that this thing won't rear its ugly head again, as most casual fans will have likely only heard the first report that linked Gonzalez to Biogenesis, he has a lot to prove in 2013.  

2012 was a breakout year for Gio Gonzalez. He had career lows in ERA, FIP, BB/9, and HR/9. His reduction of BB/9 saw him continue a recent trend where he has lowered that stat by an average of 0.56 walks per nine innings a season. Gonzalez was arguably the best pitcher on the Nationals last season and ended up finishing third in the NL Cy Young voting. Most breakout years need a follow-up season to prove they weren't merely career years, but with the PED cloud now hovering over him, Gio Gonzalez needs a follow-up season more than most.

Luckily for Gonzalez he is pitching in one of the deepest and most talented rotations ever assembled. Gonzalez is pitching behind one of the best three pure stuff pitchers in the game and ahead of another that has the determination and desire to put up numbers as good as anyone. When Gio Gonzalez is on the mound he doesn't look like he has a worry in the world, but he, like any other pro athlete, wants to be the best. Add all of the ingredients together and Gio Gonzalez has as much motivation as any pitcher in baseball to have a great season. He has to prove he can pitch "clean," that last season's breakout wasn't a fluke, and that he is the best pitcher in a rotation full of good pitchers.  

It all starts tonight for Gio Gonzalez. Stephen Strasburg started the series off with a seven-inning shutout of the Marlins, and Gio Gonzalez is going to want to be better than that tonight. There is no reason to doubt that he can. The Marlins line-up, aside from Giancarlo Stanton, is full of players that don't belong in a major league line-up. Casey Kotchman, Juan Pierre, and Placido Polanco have all seen better days and should be AAA depth somewhere for a major league organization, but here they are starting for the Miami Marlins with .402 career SLGing Polanco hitting clean-up. That is the state of the Marlins roster and with temperatures in DC expected to be 48 at game time, then dropping to 44 by the nine o'clock hour, tonight is not a hitter’s night.

Whether this evens the playing field for the Marlins or increases the Nationals advantage can be debated, but it is going to be uncomfortable to hit a fastball off the handle of a bat tonight. Take the weather, the Marlins line-up, and Gio Gonzalez's motivation into account and the show Nats fans saw Strasburg put on on Monday could pale in comparison to what Gonzalez is going to do.

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