On the days Gio Gonzalez starts, he blares Motown music throughout the Washington Nationals clubhouse, flits around the room and chatters at teammates, reporters, broadcasters, anyone who will listen. He grew up in Miami and became a professional out of high school. He is a left-hander, a curveball maestro and an unrepentant goofball. ¶ On the days Stephen Strasburg starts, he arrives later than most teammates and glowers in almost total silence, rarely leaving the small circumference around his locker. He grew up in San Diego and went to college for three years. He is a right-hander, the hardest-throwing starter in the league and a natural introvert. ¶ “One’s a butterfly traveling at 150” mph, pitching coach Steve McCatty said. “And the other one’s a plodder on that straight course.” ¶ Strasburg and Gonzalez are both all-stars. Tuesday night in Kansas City they will stand next to each other, lined up among the best players on the planet, and represent the Nationals, the team they have lifted to the best record in the National League midway through their first season together. ¶ For the odd couple at the top of the Nationals’ rotation, it is only the beginning. Strasburg cannot become a free agent until after the 2016 season, and Gonzalez signed a contract extension that could keep him here through 2018. They will grow into the prime of their careers in Washington. ¶ Here may be the oddest thing about the odd couple: They really, truly like each other. Strasburg, 23, and Gonzalez, 26, get along not despite their differences, but because of them.
“Opposites attract, right?” Gonzalez said. “I think that’s how we click so well. I kind of like to kick back a little bit and enjoy some of the moments, where he’s always trying to get better and better and better. I want that guy by my side, because he’s going to push me to get better. To me, that’s why he’s our number one.”