Both the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals might choose to keep a top hitter out of the lineup Saturday night even if healthy.
That's because Gio Gonzalez is pitching.
The Nationals left-hander is coming off his worst outing of the season and the first with Wilson Ramos calling the signals, but Gonzalez remains very tough on lefty hitters and that could lead to the red-hot Matt Adams remaining on the bench.
Gonzalez (3-2, 2.87 ERA) has been backstopped in every game by Jose Lobaton, including 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball against the New York Mets on May 18. Five days later against the same team but with Ramos catching, Gonzalez allowed season highs of seven runs and 10 hits in five innings.
"I take this one on me. He did everything right as part of calling the game," said Gonzalez, who served up three homers after allowing only three in eight previous starts. "If I execute the pitches that I wanted, and I bring it down with more movement, different game.''
With this night game preceding a day game Sunday, manager Dusty Baker could sit Ramos, who is batting .324 to rank second on the Nationals behind major league batting leader Daniel Murphy (.393).
Adams is batting .320, including .522 with three homers and nine RBIs in his last eight games. However, he has only 18 plate appearances against lefties all season with a career .234 average, compared to .342 versus righties.
With left-handed hitters batting .194 against Gonzalez and all seven hits being singles, Adams might get an extra day off despite sounding ready to play. Adams sat out Friday's 6-2 win due to a stiff back which forced him out of Thursday's 2-1 loss in the series opener.
"I woke up and the stiffness felt a lot better," he said before Friday's game.
Matt Carpenter is eligible to return from the paternity list, but Greg Garcia has reached base in five of six plate appearances after being called up to replace him at third base. Garcia homered Friday after Stephen Piscotty delivered his first career grand slam off Max Scherzer as St. Louis (25-24) snapped a three-game skid.
"He's a special player," Piscotty said of Garcia. "Hopefully he's around here a long time."
The Nationals (29-20) were held under three runs for a third consecutive game despite Danny Espinosa homering for a second straight day.
Adam Wainwright (4-3, 5.77) has won his last four regular-season starts against Washington, posting a 1.19 ERA, and the Cardinals have won his last six even though he hasn't exactly dominated. His ERA ranks among the NL's worst, his 5.46 strikeouts per nine innings is the worst and he's yet to complete seven innings.
However, Wainwright has been pleased with his progress after missing most of last season with a torn Achilles. After throwing six scoreless innings against Colorado, Wainwright allowed seven hits and three walks in six innings against the Chicago Cubs on Monday but only allowed three runs.
''I loved my stuff," he said. "I just have to attack a little better than I did in a couple of those innings. But that stuff translates. That's going to play well the rest of the season.''
Wainwright has had trouble with Murphy, who is 7 for 14 against him. Murphy has reached base at least twice in six consecutive games.
Washington is 6-9 at home after starting the season 8-1.