Gio Gonzalez will start Game 2 for the Nationals. (Tom Lynn/Associated Press)

As expected, the Nationals named Gio Gonzalez their starting pitcher for Saturday’s Game 2 and Max Scherzer for Monday’s Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Cubs. Nationals Manager Dusty Baker confirmed the decision a few hours before Game 1 on Friday.

A week ago, there wasn’t any uncertainty about the Nationals’ playoff rotation. Scherzer was expected to pitch Game 1, and Stephen Strasburg was projected to follow. That changed last Saturday, when Scherzer tweaked his hamstring against the Pirates. An MRI exam confirmed the injury wasn’t significant, but Scherzer was limited all week. He didn’t throw a bullpen until Friday, which he completed as his teammates warmed up for Game 1 at Nationals Park.

Gonzalez was informed Wednesday there was a chance he would start Game 2. Until then, he was preparing to pitch in Game 3 at Wrigley Field on Monday. The change allows Gonzalez to make his first postseason start at home since 2012, when he was the Nationals’ Game 5 starter in the NLDS against the Cardinals. He yielded three runs over five innings in a loss.

“I’ve got to prepare myself either way, whether I’m at home or on the road,” Gonzalez said. “You’ve still got to face a good lineup.”

Gonzalez, 32, is coming off his best regular season since he finished third in the National League Cy Young voting in 2012 — his first season with Washington. The left-hander overcame a 9.6 percent walk rate, which ranked third-highest in baseball among qualified pitchers, to compile a 2.96 ERA. He didn’t miss a start, making 32 of them, while surpassing the 200-inning plateau for the third time in his career with 201 innings pitched.

“Just constantly trying to re-evolve, trying to find a new way to throw strikes,” Gonzalez said. “The game’s changing. … For us, it’s attacking the strike zone, trying to lock in immediately. You can’t let yourself get in a groove after giving up a couple runs. You have to get it going right off the bat.”

In his only start against the Cubs this season, Gonzalez allowed one run in six innings June 26 at Nationals Park. He surrendered two hits, collected eight strikeouts and issued a season-high five walks in the Nationals’ 5-4 loss. Over his career, Gonzalez has a 3.06 ERA in 10 starts against the Cubs.

Trea Turner SS
Bryce Harper RF
Anthony Rendon 3B
Daniel Murphy 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Jayson Werth LF
Matt Wieters C
Michael A. Taylor CF
Stephen Strasburg RHP

Ben Zobrist RF
Kris Bryant 3B
Anthony Rizzo 1B
Willson Contreras C
Kyle Schwarber LF
Addison Russell SS
Jayson Heyward CF
Javier Baez 2B
Kyle Hendricks RHP

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How the Nationals built what is probably their strongest roster, piece by piece

What bringing a World Series home would mean to the Nationals, in their own words

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Nationals fan guide to Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cubs

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