The Nationals have set their rotation for the remainder of the season, and it means Tanner Roark will likely make the final start of his eye-opening season tonight in St. Louis.
With an off day coming after the Nationals’ three-game series in St. Louis, Johnson will pass over Roark for Game 162 and pitch Gio Gonzalez on regular rest. Roark will carry a 1.08 ERA and a 7-0 record into tonight’s game in St. Louis, but Johnson prefers the more proven commodity in Gonzalez.
“I figure we’d put our best foot forward,” Johnson said. “And Roark would be available out of the ‘pen, whereas Gio wouldn’t. I still want to put our best foot forward, right down to the wire.”
Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann will follow Roark against the Cardinals. After an off day Thursday, Stephen Strasburg, Dan Haren and Gonzalez will pitch in Arizona in the Nationals’ final series of the regular season.
Strasburg played catch today and had no apparent arm issues. Strasburg returned last night after he missed two weeks with stiffness in his right forearm, allowing three runs over six innings.
“The only I was worried about is, how was Stras?” Johnson said. “Hopefully we’re by all that.”
In the vein of putting his best foot forward, Johnson still plans to play his regulars through the end of the year. The Nationals are five games behind the Reds and Pirates with six games to play, but Johnson has not conceded anything yet.
“That hasn’t even crossed my mind,” Johnson said.