ST LOUIS, Mo. - Despite a 12-4 loss to the Cardinals in Game 2 of the NLDS on Monday at Busch Stadium, the Nationals will come back to Washington with the series tied at a game apiece knowing they did what was required - win a game on the road.
Over the first two games, the Nats starting pitching was not what we have been accustomed to seeing all year.
Gio Gonzalez matched a career high with seven walks in game one and left after throwing 110 pitches in five innings. The Nationals were fortunate he gave up just two runs in a game they came back to win 3-2 on the strength of a Tyler Moore pinch-hit, two-run single in the eighth.
Monday night, Jordan Zimmermann had a 1-2-3 first inning but then gave up four straight hits to start the second, including an RBI double by David Freese and RBI singles by Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay. In the third, he gave up a solo homer to Allen Craig.
Just like that, Zimmermann was down 5-1 and out of the game after just three innings. In all, the Cardinals hit four home runs on the night, two by Carlos Beltran and one by Descalso.
But the mood in the Nationals clubhouse was positive, because they know they will be playing the rest of the series at Nationals Park.
"The goal was to win one game out here, obviously two would have been a bonus," said Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
"You split it and you go home (Tuesday) and kind of re-group and relax a little bit and then come out ready to win a series."
The Nats will hand the ball to Edwin Jackson for Game 3, and he will oppose Chris Carpenter. Jackson has pitched in the postseason for the Tampa Bay Rays and last year for the Cardinals as they made their march to the World Series championship.
"We got E-Jax going," said Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper. "He's one of the strongest pitchers in the postseason known to this game. Every time he's thrown in the postseason he's always strong and I think playing at home is going to be good for all of us in front of our home crowd and it's going to be good."
No question the Nationals coming home has to make them feel better after getting throttled in Game 2, but there are things this pitching staff has to do to make sure the Cardinals potent lineup stays in check.
The Nationals went 4-3 against the Redbirds this season. In the three games they lost, they gave up a total of 32 runs.
"They have a great lineup," said Jordan Zimmermann.
"It's tough. You get a few guys out and you look up and you got (Carlos) Beltran coming up and (David) Freese, I mean, it never stops and they've got a good lineup and you have to be able to make your pitches and I didn't do that tonight."
Manager Davey Johnson knows the Cardinals are a good hitting club, but he would prefer not to see too many more offensive explosions.
"I hope I never see this offense again," he said with a smile. "Their numbers speak for themselves. They've got a fine hitting ball club and good pitching will slow down good hitting, but you have to make pitches and we didn't do that tonight."
Still, the Nationals did accomplish what they wanted to do in the first two games.
"That was our goal - to get one win out of here," said second baseman Danny Espinosa.
"That's what we came in wanting to do and we got last night. Last night was a tough game and we played hard and we were able to pull one out of this road trip."
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