6/13/2014 8:07 P.M. ET
Nationals brace for latest test in St. Louis
By Joe Harris / Special to MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Washington entered Friday night's game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium as baseball's hottest team, winning 11 of its last 13.
The Nationals made a statement by taking three or four against San Francisco, the team with the best record in baseball. And now another statement could be made against the Cardinals, who have dominated the Nationals since coming back to win Game 5 of the 2012 National League Division Series.
St. Louis won all six meetings in 2013 and the clubs split a four-game series earlier this season at Washington.
"It's such a good team, and they're always playing good ball," Washington second baseman Danny Espinosa said. "So if we come in and win the series, that would obviously show that we're playing real good ball right now. At the same time, we've got to take it game by game. Just one game at a time. Let's win tonight and see what we can do the following days."
Washington manager Matt Williams doesn't believe in worrying about the past.
"Every game's different," Williams said. "One day could be a struggle, the next day everything could go right for you. So it's human nature to think about those things, but I think you have to put it out of your mind as much as you can."
Williams pointed out that the Cardinals have had success against a lot of teams in recent years. St. Louis won the World Series in 2011, went to the NL Championship Series in '12 and lost in the World Series in '13.
"I can tell you this, that team over there, they do a really nice job with guys in scoring position," Williams said. "They create those opportunities and they come through. They've got good, professional hitters, they play good defense and they pitch solidly. That's probably a recipe for a lot of teams not playing well against them. We've seen that over the last couple of years and how they played. That's all in the past though. We have to concentrate on tonight."
It's a mindset echoed by the Nationals players.
"We had a tough loss against them a couple of years ago obviously," Espinosa said. "It's definitely something you want to come in and win and get back and show we can beat them. It won't be by any means an easy win day to day, but if we stay within ourselves and do what we're capable of doing, I think we can win the series."
Cedeno rejoins 'pen ahead of Gio's return
ST. LOUIS -- In a move signaling the imminent return of Gio Gonzalez, the Washington Nationals optioned right-handed starter Blake Treinen to Triple-A Syracuse and recalled left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno before Friday's game against the Cardinals.
Treinen, the organization's No. 17 prospect, had been starting in place of Gonzalez, who went on the disabled list with an inflamed left shoulder on May 18. Treinen made four starts, going 0-2 with a 2.89 ERA.
The move comes one day after Gonzalez made his second rehab start against the White Sox Class A Advanced affiliate, Winston-Salem. The lefty gave up one run on two hits and struck out seven over four innings.
"He was good last night; felt good, no pain," Washington manager Matt Williams said. "No discomfort in the shoulder, got to 80, 79 pitches and feels good about it. So given the fact that he's slated to come back, we decided to make the move and get Xavier here."
The hope was to have Gonzalez go five innings, but Williams was encouraged by the outing.
"He threw a lot of breaking balls, working on his breaking-ball command," Williams said. "He had a bunch of strikeouts, so that will make the pitch total go up a little bit, but he was working on changeup [command], working on breaking-ball command and going through a start, just making sure he got that down and got a feel for that. Velocity was good, health was good, so he should be good to go."
While signs point to a Gonzalez start on Wednesday, Williams wouldn't commit to a date. He said the club will wait to see what happens over the weekend and that Monday's off-day gives them some flexibility.
Cedeno's addition gives the Nationals another bullpen option. In 13 appearances at Syracuse, Cedeno was 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA over 14 2/3 innings. He has allowed two earned runs all season and has 20 strikeouts.
• Danny Espinosa was back in the lineup at second base, batting seventh, on Friday night in St. Louis. Espinosa went 1-for 10 in the first three games against San Francisco, before sitting in favor of Kevin Frandsen.
"He got banged up a little bit in the first seven games here, got hit in the knee, and that's been sore," Washington manager Matt Williams said. "Yesterday was a good matchup for Kevin Frandsen, so we decided to give him a day yesterday, but he's going to play every day, just a little bit of rest yesterday.
"He's good. He's made some adjustments at the plate, the average is starting to come up, so all good things."
• Triple-A Syracuse scored four in the first inning and beat the Norfolk Tide, 5-3, on Thursday. Zach Walters had a home run as eight of the nine spots in the Chiefs' order had at least one hit.
Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.