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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, April 7th (All times Eastern)

Washington Nationals (1-0) at Chicago Cubs (0-1), 1:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Washington - Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 0.00) Chicago - Matt Garza (0-0, 0.00)

(Sports Network) - Matt Garza hopes to carry over a strong finish from last season to the 2012 campaign when he toes the rubber this afternoon for the Cubs against the Nationals.

Garza, who went 4-0 over his last six starts in 2011, avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $9.5 million deal in the offseason. He went 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA in 31 starts in his first season with the Cubs, this after a career- best 15-win season with Tampa Bay in 2010. He was then traded by the Rays to the Cubs in a multi-player package in January, 2011.

Garza is 0-1 with a 7.90 ERA in three career starts vs. Washington. The righty also hopes to turn around a rough spring training, as Garza finished the Cactus League schedule with a 2-2 record and a 5.51 ERA in five starts.

Acquired from Oakland in December as part of a six-player trade, Gio Gonzalez gets his first start in a Nationals uniform this afternoon. The 26-year-old left-hander, who was given a five-year, $42 million contract and is now the No. 2 starter behind Stephen Strasburg, went to the All-Star game last year thanks to a season that saw him finish 16-12 with a 3.12 earned run average with 197 strikeouts over 32 starts. It was a career-high in wins and strikeouts along with a career-low in ERA.

Gonzalez has faced the Cubs once before and it resulted in a loss when he pitched five innings and gave up eight hits and six runs.

The season opener between these clubs on Thursday went to the Nationals, 2-1. Ian Desmond went 3-for-5 and knocked in the go- ahead run in the ninth inning

"When we all came to spring training, we were all itching to get here, When everyone showed up early, I think that kind of set the tone," Desmond said. "We've been chomping at the bit to get out there and it was definitely exciting."

Strasburg gave up one run on five hits in a seven-inning start for the Nationals, while former Phillies closer Brad Lidge came on in the home ninth to earn the save.

Ryan Dempster allowed one run on two hits in 7 2/3 frames. He struck out 10 and walked three for Chicago.

"He was incredible," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Dempster. "His command of his fastball, his split, his cutter, his slider, everything was tremendous. I know he was ready to prove everybody wrong about last year and getting the Opening Day start as well, and he did a good job."

Washington won four of the seven meetings last season.

04/07 10:29:30 ET

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