Fernandez's friend Gonzalez start for Nats vs. D-backs

WASHINGTON -- Even under normal circumstances this year, it is hard to predict what kind of performance Gio Gonzalez will give the Washington Nationals when he takes the mound.

The veteran left-hander is 11-10 with a 4.51 ERA through 31 starts, but he has a 5.35 ERA in his past seven starts and has lasted a combined 9 1/3 innings in his past two outings.

Gonzalez will start at home Wednesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks just three days after his friend, Miami Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez, died in a boating accident in Florida.

Gonzalez broke down in tears when a moment of silence was given for Fernandez before Washington's game in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

The Nationals are trying to hold onto the second-best record in the National League and home-field advantage for the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Washington (92-65) owns a two-game edge on Los Angeles (90-67).

"That is what we are playing for," right-hander Max Scherzer said after the Nationals' 4-2 win Tuesday over Arizona. "I would love for Game 5 to be here at Nationals Park."

But first things first.

Gonzalez hasn't faced the Diamondbacks this year, and he owns a 2-0 record with a 2.97 ERA in five career starts against them.

However, the current Arizona hitters who have faced him have done very well.

Paul Goldschmidt is hitting .778 in nine at-bats against the veteran lefty. Welington Castillo is batting .333 in nine trips to the plate against Gonzalez, and Phil Gosselin is 4-for-5.

Arizona will counter Gonzalez with right-hander Shelby Miller, who is concluding a rough year. He is 2-12 with a 6.47 ERA, although he had one of his best outings on Friday. Facing the playoff-hopeful Orioles in Baltimore, Miller went six scoreless innings.

Miller is 2-2 with a 2.85 ERA in seven career starts against Washington, though he hasn't faced the Nationals this year and he lost to them twice last year.

Daniel Murphy is 4-for-10 against Miller, though the Washington second baseman is slowed by a strained glute, and he has not played since Sept. 20.

Bryce Harper is hitting .294 in 17 at-bats against Miller, but Harper has not played since hurting this left thumb in a slide on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Washington shortstop Danny Espinosa is 4-for-11 (.364) against Miller. Anthony Rendon is 5-for-14 (.357), while Ben Revere, a reserve outfielder, is hitting just .133 (2-for-15) against the former St. Louis righty.

One Nationals regular who won't be in action Wednesday -- or again this year -- is Wilson Ramos. The All-Star catcher was diagnosed with a torn right anterior cruciate ligament.

His season ends with a .307 average, a career-high 22 homers and a career-high 80 RBIs.

"This was the most inopportune time for this to happen," Washington manager Dusty Baker said.

Arizona lost all three games last weekend in Baltimore and has now split the first two games against Washington.

"We are doing our best," Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said Tuesday. "The guys want to finish strong whomever we are playing. We will have to be ready tomorrow."