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Cards take 2-1 series lead with 8-0 blowout

Pete Kozma's three-run homer gave the Cardinals a comfortable lead on their way to a big win.

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Cardinals smash Nationals 8-0 in Game 3

St. Louis took a 2-1 lead over Washington in their Division Series with a blowout in Game 3, in D.C.'s first postseason game since 1933.

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Cards pouring it on, up 8-0 late

The Cardinals probably didn't need any more runs, but if the Nationals are just handing them out, well, sure. With two outs and no one on in the top of the eighth, Jon Jay singled up the middle. That was followed by a Carlos Beltran ground-rule double, and in case you needed reminding, here's what Beltran's done in the postseason over his career:

PA HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
115 13 22 9 0 20 14 .362 .478 .819 1.297
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/10/2012.


He's 2-for-4 with a walk, a run, and an RBI today. As an enlightened baseball fan, you know you're supposed to stay away from claims like "He really turns it on in the playoffs!" But Beltran ... yeesh.

Matt Holliday singled up the middle to drive in two, and the Cardinals extended the lead to 8-0, which makes it pretty danged likely that they'll go up 2-1 in the series. Not bad for a second wild card.

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Cardinals score 2 more in 8th, now lead Nats 8-0

Now it's officially a blowout. Or a rout. Or a laugher. Or a grimblejack. You choose.

Whatever you want to call it, it's all over but the grumbling, as the Cardinals strung together three two-out hits in the top of the eighth inning and pushed their lead from 6-0 to 8-0. Jon Jay got things started with a single to center, and Carlos Beltran -- yes, him again -- drove an automatic double to right field that would have plated Jay if it hadn't bounced over the fence.

That brought up Matt Holliday, who fouled a pitch off his calf, fell to the earth in pain, then drove a single into left field that drove home Jay and Beltran. All this came against Ryan Mattheus, one of the Nationals' Game 1 heroes. After walking Allen Craig, Mattheus cleverly got Yadier Molina to hit a line drive directly at Bryce Harper to end the inning.

The Nationals have six more outs to play with, and need to score at least eight runs. Otherwise they need to win two games in a row or be eliminated.

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Cards increase lead over Nats to 6-0

In the top of the 7th inning, the Nationals trotted out Christian Garcia to keep their deficit at 5-0. Garcia, a rookie with 12.2 regular-season innings under his belt, chucked five outs of scoreless baseball against the Cardinals Monday. After early struggles, Garcia managed to slam the door and escape the inning with only one earned run.

The Cardinals opened the inning with singles from Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran, who advanced to second and third on a Matt Holliday groundout. Garcia walked Allen Craig, a strong bat, in favor of Yadier Molina ... another strong bat. Molina drew a bases-loaded walk to increase the Cardinals' lead to 6-0.

Garcia then promptly recovered, striking out David Freese and Daniel Descalso to strand three Cards on base. With the Nationals' 2-3-4 hitters due up in the bottom of the 7th, the Nats may well send Garcia back to the mound for another inning, as they did Monday.

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Cards escape big jam, tack on, lead 5-0

Chris Carpenter is pitching. This is weird. Even weirder: He's pitching well. That's not weird because of who he is, but because he had season-ending surgery that wasn't season-ending surgery. Usually pitchers who have ribs removed for thoracic outlet syndrome don't show back up in the majors for a few months.

He wasn't hit hard at all through the first four innings, but in the fifth, he walked Jayson Werth with one out. Ryan Zimmerman singled Werth to third with two outs, and Adam LaRoche walked to load the bases for Michael Morse ... who flew out to right.

The Cardinals added onto the lead in the top of the sixth, with Craig Stammen replacing Edwin Jackson and immediately hitting Yadier Molina with a pitch. David Freese connected for his 583rd career playoff double. Molina moved to third and scored on a Daniel Descalso sacrifice fly. Stammen struck out Pete Kozma and Carpenter to end the threat.

Which brings up an interesting point: Why was Carpenter pitching? He's been good, but he's at 89 pitches already, and there was a runner at third. Carpenter can't be at full-horse mode just yet, right?

But those are the quibbles that don't get a lot of attention with a five-run lead. And the Cardinals are in pretty good shape to go up 2-1 in the series.

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Nats escape big jam in 5th, still trail 4-0

Oh. So it turns out that Edwin Jackson is a pretty good pitcher after all.

It didn't seem like it in the top of the second inning, when he was throwing Batting Practice fastballs to the St. Louis Cardinals, who (as it turns out) are really good in Batting Practice. Jackson just kept sending fastballs through the strike zone, and the Cardinals just kept hitting them.

But while Jackson is hardly a superstar, he's a perfectly competent major leaguer ... when he's mixing his pitches. Which he started doing shortly after Pete Kozma hit a three-run homer in the second. Once Jackson started throwing his slider, he started recording outs; he faced three batters in the third, and three batters in the fourth. And in the fifth, despite giving up a double to Chris Carpenter -- his opposite number's second hit in the game -- and a walk to Carlos Beltran, Jackson wriggled out of a big jam by striking out Matt Carpenter to end the inning.

Jackson's finally out of the game, bumped for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth. And one can argue that he pitched well. But he pitched decently aside from that one horrible inning, which should give the Nationals at least some hope that Jackson can give them some good innings in the Championship Series.

If they get there.

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NEWS FLASH: Jim Joyce blows call at first base

Umpire Jim Joyce.

A (sorta) close call at first base.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, this:

Nats_1

That was Danny Espinosa, clearly beating David Freese's throw to first base after a lovely bunt with a runner already aboard. Yeah, in real time it was a really close play. It fooled Bob Costas, anyway. But umpires are going to call this play correctly ... what? Nine times out of ten? More?

So thanks to Joyce, the Nationals had a man on second with one out -- Espinosa got credit for a sacrifice hit, even though he wasn't really trying for one, not with the No. 8 hitter due next -- instead of two aboard with nobody out.

Chris Carpenter easily retired Kurt Suzuki and Edwin Jackson to preserve the Cardinals' 1-0 lead, heading to the third inning.

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BRYCE HARPER IS A DEMON

Or he's a jackass, or he's a something-or-rather, or ... You'll get a variation of this sentiment on Twitter right now if you're looking because Harper is wearing red contacts:


DEMON! DEEEEEEEMON! Combined with the faux-hawk, the black-metal corpse paint, and the expectations we had of Harper before we realized he was normal and relatively grounded, the red contacts were the perfect thing to put people over the top!

Except, it probably has nothing to do with demonosity or team spirit. Players wear red contacts for the sun, or to pick the ball up better. From the USA Today:

The Baltimore Orioles' Brian Roberts, the majors' second-leading batter entering Thursday (.368), and the Chicago White Sox's A.J. Pierzynski are among more than two dozen big-leaguers fitted with tinted contact lenses developed by Nike and Bausch & Lomb and designed to make the ball stand out.

That was seven years ago. This isn't about Harper bleedin' Natitude through his eyeballs. It's probably because he didn't like how he was picking up the ball, and the corpse paint didn't help as much as he wanted yesterday.

Besides, it'd be pretty stupid to have a "GOTTA BLEED RED" mindset when you're facing the Cardinals.

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Harper almost homers, but Cards still ahead 1-0

Chris Carpenter started only three games during the regular season, but the Cardinals' erstwhile ace pitched well in those three starts and earned a spot in the postseason rotation.

But after being handed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, Carpenter struggled a bit in his first October action since beating the Rangers in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.

Jason Werth led off with a line-drive single into center field. Bryce Harper came up next, and took a mighty uppercut that sent a fly ball high into right field. Up in the booth, Bob Costas began his home-run call with a way back! ... but Harper actually just missed it; Carlos Beltran read it better than Costas, and caught the ball a few feet shy of the warning track.

Ryan Zimmermann followed with a weak grounder to third base, where David Freese ...

Freeseerror

.... foozled it.

But Carpenter recovered nicely, with a couple of ground balls from the next two batters to close out the inning with no real damage, aside from a slightly elevated pitch count (25).

Heading into the second inning, it's still Cardinals 1, Nationals 0.

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Two-out knocks put Cards up early, 1-0

Let's get the obvious out of the way: Stephen Strasburg wouldn't have allowed this run to score. Stephen Strasburg would have taken the mound to raucous cheers, and the light from his aura would have blinded the home-plate umpire, who would be forced to do the "strikeonestriketwostrikethreeyerout" call from Baseball Bugs for every batter. Strasburg would ascend into the stars, but only after the game was over and the no-hitter complete.

But Strasburg was not on the mound. Edwin Jackson was. And the last time we saw him in the playoffs, he was setting Cardinals franchise records, walking seven betters in a World Series game (that the Cardinals somehow won). After two quick outs, Jackson allowed a solid single to Matt Holliday. That brought up Allen Craig, who ripped a double down the line:


Holliday runs well, but not that well, so it wasn't a given that he would score from first. But then this happened:


No carom. Not even at all. I have a bad feeling about the Cardinals this year, folks. They freak me out. They seem like the team that will or will not get the carom throughout the postseason as the situation dictates.

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