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Sunday, October 9, 2011
Mike Gonzalez trade keeps paying dividends

By Richard Durrett

ARLINGTON, Texas -- No matter what kind of career pitcher Pedro Strop has, the trade for LHP Mike Gonzalez at the August deadline was worth it.

Why? Because you trade a prospect for a player who can impact games late when they matter most. And once again, in Game 1 of the ALCS, Gonzalez was a huge factor in the outcome.

Gonzalez, obtained from Baltimore on Aug. 31, came in with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning to face left-handed hitting Alex Avila. The situation arrived after the second rain delay and Gonzalez was told to get ready about 10 minutes before the game was set to resume.

"That's more than enough time," Gonzalez said.

He warmed up and then threw just two pitches to Avila, getting him to ground out. Gonzalez was clearly fired up and celebrated with his teammates in the dugout moments later.

"The game is right there," Gonzalez said. "It's within one run and the guy gets a knock and you're down by two or three. It's something where you either go up or down. I was feeling pretty good. The energy shifted our way. That's always good."

It's the second time this postseason that Gonzalez has come in to get a critical left-handed hitter out in a big situation. He retired Johnny Damon on three pitches, striking him out in the eighth in Game 3 of the ALDS.

"Coming in here, I understood what I'd be going to be brought in for and that's to get that big lefty," Gonzalez said. "It's situational. You know you're a piece of that puzzle and that's what I have to do."

Washington said before the rain came that starter C.J. Wilson would have pitched to Avila as his final batter of his start.

"But the rain stopped it, so we come back and we brought out Gonzalez," Washington said.

From that point forward, Washington set up the bullpen the way he wanted with Alexi Ogando for the sixth and seventh, Darren Oliver for two lefties to start the eighth, Mike Adams for the final batter of the eighth and closer Neftali Feliz for the ninth.