Nats lost last night and Gio was Gio. With each terribly maddening and unimpressive start the "Gio Game 1" bandwagon grows. I now assume he'll start Game 162, give up 5 walks and 4 runs in 3 innings and everyone will agree he should somehow pitch three times against the Dodgers.
I'm not saying Gio starting game 1 is a bad idea. He's going to start anyway. It would be silly not to try to take advantage of the Dodgers splits. Max isn't going 1 and 4. He said as much. Dusty said as much. So either Roark goes 1 and 4 or Gio goes 1 and 4 or, far more likelier, no one does and if no one does, what's it matter if Gio starts G1 or G3?
My big concern is what I have talked about before. With Max or Roark if they start G1 and are terrible you chalk it up to a fluke and use that short outing to bring them back in G4*. Gio doesn't get that benefit of the doubt. If he's terrible then he is done for the series outside maybe an emergency LOOGY situation. So if Gio goes G1 and is terrible and the Nats make it to G4, you have a
situation where you are going to be forced to start Ross/Latos/Cole etc. To make matters worse you'll have no Max or Roark available in emergency. They'll have pitched too recently.
The idea that the Nats could do a bullpen thing, go with Solis for 2, Rep for 2, Perez for two - throw in a righty when needed - to get to the 7th/8th and the usual closers is a nice idea but too unusual for the playoffs. I just don't see it happening unless forced into it by a terrible start by a normal starter. It's not happening to start a game.
Further, I wonder about the things we can't measure. What does it say to the team when you decide "We're not going with Max Game 1. Kershaw is real good. We're going with Gio and maybe hope to steal one" Maybe you can convince them you'd be doing what is best for the team. Talk about home away splits (Max is better at home - Roark and Gio don't have big splits). Talk about Gio's starts against the Dodgers and how he's never been hit by them (5 starts as a Nat against LA: 32 IP, 20H, 6ER, 12BB, 34K or something close to that I did this quick). Maybe that works. But maybe they see it as giving away a game they can ill afford to lose. Any game in a short series is crucial. This is Dusty's job, to read the team, but I have a suspicion that they'd want to go with their big gun first.
Also I think it's important to remember that all these machinations, they probably don't really matter all that much. The change in the chance to win the series isn't going to be all that great and it's going to be overwhelmed by the simple luck that happens in any short series. Is the starter on his game? Do you get a few seeing-eye hits or bloops in the same inning? That'll be the driving force for winning the series - not idealized pitching match-ups. If you want to go ahead and do it. Maximize your advantage, but don't kid yourself that that is going to be the tipping point because it almost certainly won't be. This isn't like running with Strasburg or shutting him down. It's just shuffling stuff around.
So in the end I like just going with Max G1, Roark G2 (or flip that if you want), Gio G3 and worrying about G4 if and when you get there. It's like how I feel about planning out how the NLDS rotation leads into the NLCS rotation. You can worry about setting up for the NLCS. I don't. I worry about winning the NLDS then figuring out the NLCS.
Anyway Dodgers lost too and the Nats keep a 2 game lead for HFA which at some point was going to be my point here. There are 4 games left so probably the Nats only need 2 wins to clinch it, maybe even 1. Let's hope the rain holds off and the Nats (and Padres) finish it today.
*Yeah I just said Max wouldn't go G1 and G4. But in this scenario he's going like 3 1/3 in G1. I think that would change things