The combination of unprecedented regular season success and Stephen Strasburg's departure from the rotation has shifted an enormous amount of pressure onto the rest of Washington's starting staff.
For a city that hasn't seen playoff baseball in nearly 80 years, a deep postseason run could be monumental. So, without the services of their true No.1 pitcher, who will pick up the slack in the nation's capital?
Luckily, there are some options.
The Washington Nationals have boasted the best starting-five in baseball for the entirety of the 2012 season and certainly possess the talent to win even without Strasburg's electric arm. A young, hard-throwing group of starters that averaged just 26 years of age before Strasburg's removal is now reliant upon a relatively inexperienced three-man core.
Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez will likely serve as the centerpiece for Washington's postseason rotation in coming weeks. And without a single inning of playoff experience among them, the Nationals must hope the raw talent of their three young guns perseveres. Leading the way is NL Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez. After coming over to D.C. in an offseason trade with the Oakland Athletics, the 27-year-old lefty has enjoyed his first 20-win season here in the nation's capital.
At 29 years of age, Edwin Jackson stands as the eldest of pitchers expecting to start for the Nationals in October. However, with a three-man rotation still in the cards, I expect Gonzalez to serve as Washington's backbone come playoff time.
Here are three good reasons Gio Gonzalez will carry the Nats deep into the postseason.