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Carlos Beltran homers twice as Cardinals blow out Nationals in Game 2, 12-4

The St. Louis Cardinals host the Washington Nationals in Game 2 of their National League Division Series. The Nationals lead the series, 1-0.

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Cards thump Nats in Game 2, 12-4

The St. Louis Cardinals slugged their way to a World Series championship last year, and they managed to do it despite a consistently quick hook for their starting pitchers. For Game 2 of the National League Division Series, the Cardinals brought back the old template, slugging their way past the Washington Nationals, 12-4, and evening up the series, 1-1.

Carlos Beltran had two home runs, and Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso each added a solo shot. Beltran was the first switch-hitter to hit two homers in the same playoff game since … Carlos Beltran, who last did it in Game 4 of the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals. It was the third multi-homer playoff game of Beltran's career.

Jordan Zimmermann, who finished seventh in the National League in ERA, started the game for the Nationals, but he switched luggage with Joe Saunders at the airport. Zimmermann had only one game all season in which he allowed more than four runs, but it happened to be against the Cardinals on Sept. 1, when he gave up eight runs in a losing effort. He fared slightly better on Monday, but mostly because Davey Johnson had a quicker hook. Zimmermann was pulled after three innings, and he allowed five runs on seven hits.

The Cardinals fell behind early, as Zimmermann knocked in a runner on a butcher-boy play in the top of the second, but the Cardinals stormed back in the bottom-half of the inning, with David Freese doubling home a run to tie the game 1-1. After Descalso singled home another run, Cards manager Mike Matheny made the bold move of pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Jaime Garcia with runners on first and third and one out. Skip Schumaker was sent up, and he grounded out to give the Cardinals another run. Jon Jay finished the scoring with a two-out single, putting St. Louis up 4-1.

Garcia threw only two innings, walking three, allowing a run, and throwing 51 pitches.

A solo shot from Craig put the Cards up 5-1 in the third, and Descalso's homer in the fourth off reliever Craig Stammen pushed the lead to 6-1. The Cardinals added on another run on a Danny Espinosa error at the end of the fourth, threatening to pull away.

But the Nationals didn't go away quietly, at least, not at first. With one out in the fifth, Ryan Zimmerman and Andy LaRoche had back-to-back solo home runs. After Beltran's first home run in the sixth made it 8-3, the Nationals got two runners on with no one out in the top of the seventh, Ryan Zimmerman hit into what GameDay describes as "a sacrifice double play," which looks like this:

Harper made the second out of the inning at third, down by four. He probably won't do that again, so have your yuks now, National League.

The Cardinals tacked on in the bottom of the eighth against lefty Sean Burnett, putting the game out of reach with a Jon Jay RBI triple and Beltran's second homer of the game.

In other news, Jon Jay made a sweet catch in the sixth inning, only to be visited by the spectral apparition of a giant, disembodied Tony La Russa head.


Not worth it, Jon. Not worth it.

The series travels to Washington D.C., with Chris Carpenter going against Edwin Jackson in Game 3.


Cards blow out Nats 12-4, even Division Series

Monday evening in St. Louis, the Cardinals evened their Division Series by blowing out the Washington Nationals in Game 2, 12-4.

It's not often that your starting pitcher gets yanked after two innings and you still win, but that was part of Mike Matheny's winning formula in Game 2. That starting pitcher was Jaime Garcia, who gave up just one run in the first two innings but also walked three Nationals. So when Garcia's turn came up in the bottom of the second, Matheny yanked his starter in favor of a pinch hitter.

The pinch hitter didn't do anything, but the move worked in another sense, as the relief pitchers who followed Garcia performed more than well enough. Of course, the Cards probably would have been fine with Garcia for a few innings, since they wound up scoring a dozen runs. Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann lasted only three innings, in what was probably his second-worst outing this season. And the Cardinals got to the Nationals' bullpen, too.

The Cardinals' big hitting stars were Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran, who both drove in three runs; Jay also contributed a spectacular catch in center field, while Beltran hit two home runs.

So the series is all evened up as the two teams shift to Washington, D.C., where they'll resume the series Wednesday.


Beltran trots, Harper flops, Cards up 8-4

Back on Oct. 8, 2012, the St. Louis Cardinals hosted a playoff game against the Washington Nationals. In this game, Carlos Beltran hit a home run in the sixth inning to push the Cardinals' lead to 8-3.

Why are you reading this? Because here's a piece of trivia: That's the same Nationals/Cardinals game that is still going on this very minute. I'm assuming it's Oct. 14, 2023, and we have flying cars now. One of these days, I'll go outside and ride in one.

Which is all an elaborate way of saying, damn, this game is taking forever.

But it's not without its finer points, though. With a runner on first and no outs, Bryce Harper doubled, giving the Nationals a little hope. And Matt Holliday played a game-within-a-game with Bryce Harper: a game of rookie/veteran.

Rookies take unnecessary risks and go from second to third when they don't need to.

Veterans play rope-a-dope and bounce their throws to the cutoff man, hoping to goad overly aggressive rookies into making a mistake.

Now that's a wily veteran move. Also: lol. Harper was gunned out on a weird and unfortunate quasi-double play, and the rally died. This was what Raul Ibanez was trying to do all along, everybody.


Jay's circus grab helps keep Nats off board in 6th

No, Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay didn't save a home run when he caught Danny Espinosa's drive to deep center field. But this was still one hell of a play ...


... and in a game the Cardinals desperately need to win, who knows how important it was? The Cardinals were up 7-1, but now it's 7-3 in the sixth and a leadoff double or triple probably would have made it 7-4, hardly a fail-safe score for St. Louis.

Cardinals reliever Joe Kelly gave up that blast, but did get through the rest of the frame in good order. Both managers are really running through their rosters this afternoon. One out in the bottom of the sixth, they've combined to use seven pitchers and four pinch-hitters. We can only hope it's close in the eighth and ninth, so they have to make some really tough choices and we have stuff to argue about.


Nationals go back-to-back, cut deficit to 7-3

Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia went only two innings, though he managed to squeeze a game's worth of pitches in there, and that meant it was a bullpen game for the Cards. They were pretty good at the bullpen games last year, as they didn't have a starter record an out in the sixth inning of any of the NLCS. It looks like Mike Matheny found the index cards that Tony La Russa left.

And if it's a bullpen game that early, that probably means Lance Lynn, who was converted from a reliever to a starter to a reliever to a starter this year. He might have been a better option to start instead of Lance Lynn, in retrospect.

Lynn was mostly cruising until the top of the fifth, when he allowed one of these to Ryan Zimmerman ...

... and one of these to Adam Laroche.

Alas, both were solo shots, and Lance escaped the inning without further damage. The Nationals are just a swing away from tying it up, down just 7-3, but they'd need base runners first.


Pitching and defense let Nats down, now trail 7-1

So the Cardinals knocked out Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, who exited after his second-worst outing of this whole year.

But his replacement, Craig Stammen, isn't faring much better. Daniel Descalso drove Stammen's third pitch, a sinker that caught too much of the plate, into the right-field, red-filled stands. It was just Descalso's fifth home run this season. Next up: another light-hitting middle infielder, Pete Kozma. Stammen walked him.

There was a brief respite when Lance Lynn dropped a sacrifice bunt ... but the respite was very brief. The Nationals did retire Lynn, but Kozma was off with the pitch and chugged all the way to third base. And a moment later, he trotted home when second baseman Danny Espinosa completely whiffed on Jon Jay's routine ground ball. Then Jay stole second base, Carlos Beltran walked, and Davey Johnson had seen enough; time for Pitcher No. 3.

Specifically, ex-Yankee Christian Garcia, who did retire the next couple of hitters, including striking out Allen Craig to finally end the inning.

We're two hours and four innings into this one, and the Cardinals have a commanding 7-1 lead.


Allen Craig pummels baseball, Cards up 5-1

Jordan Zimmermann was one of the reasons the Nationals felt they weren't going to miss Stephen Strasburg that much. Everyone loved to fete Strasburg, but Zimmermann was the one who finished in the top 10 on the National League ERA leader board. And as a Game 2 starter, he was pretty well-suited.

The Cardinals have been pretty rude hosts, though, and they've been knocking him around pretty good. In the bottom of the third inning, Allen Craig came up and did this:

The ball barely stayed fair, and it went about as far as you'd gather from that swing. The solo homer pushed the Cardinals lead to 5-1.

In 32 starts for Zimmermann during the regular season, he allowed more than four runs just once. The bad news for Zimmermann? That outing was against the Cardinals, who knocked him around on Sept. 1, pounding out eight runs on eight hits, a walk, and two home runs.


Cardinals score 4 in the 2nd inning for 4-1 lead

Boy, that lead didn't last long.

In the top of the second inning, the Washington Nationals grabbed a 1-0 lead when Jaime Garcia gave up an RBI to his opposite number, Jordan Zimmermann. Garcia did recover and retired the next two Nationals.

But in the bottom of the second, the Cardinals opened with a flurry of hits:

Allen Craig - single (infield variety)
Yadier Molina - single
David Freese - double
Daniel Descalso - single

Even Craig's hit was legitimate, as he drove a hard grounder off Ryan Zimmerman's glove at third base. Those four hits resulted in two runs, and brought up Pete "Infield Fly" Kozma with runners on first and third and still nobody out.

Zimmermann applied a tourniquet by striking out Kozma, which brought up Jaime Garcia pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker! Yeah: after just two innings in which he'd given up just one run, Jaime Garcia got yanked. He'd walked three Nationals in those two innings, and Mike Matheny might even have recalled Garcia's struggles last October.

Anyway, Schumaker shot a grounder toward left field, but Ian Desmond made a diving stop and threw out Schumaker while Freese crossed the plate with the Cardinals' third run. And the Cardinals weren't finished, as Jon Jay poked a liner down the third-base line to plate Descalso. Jay was out trying to stretch his hit into a double.

After two innings, the Cardinals are ahead 4-1 ... but their starting pitcher is already out of the game. Matheny's going to have a lot of decisions to make.


Nats strike first, walk all over Jaime Garcia

Last postseason, I wouldn't shut up about Jaime Garcia's inning-by-inning splits, as he was like Jimmy Key in the first third of a game and Jimmy Gobble by the end. It was like that all 2011, from April through the playoffs.

This year? Not so much:

Pitch 1-25 124 1.71 .269 .347 .361 .708
Pitch 26-50 150 4.50 .284 .313 .418 .731
Pitch 51-75 132 6.00 .301 .323 .423 .746
Pitch 76-100 106 3.20 .305 .330 .389 .720
Pitch 101+ 3 .333 .333 .667 1.000

I think I fell into the sample hole. He did the same thing a little bit this year, but nothing as pronounced as it was last year. It's probably just a random distribution.

In Game 2 of the NLDS, though, Garcia has looked awful, for the most part. His sinkers are up, and he's walked three batters in the first two innings. He started the second inning by allowing a single up the middle to Ian Desmond, and then he walked Danny Espinosa. After Kurt Suzuki struck out, pitcher Jordan Zimmermann singled to right, and Desmond ran through the stop sign from Astros manager-to-be, Bo Porter:

Note Carlos Beltran temporarily forgetting that he can throw the ball instead of running it to home plate.

Garcia would get out of the jam allowing just that one run, though, as he struck out Bryce Harper to end the threat. He's already thrown 51 pitches through three innings, and as you can tell by the chart up there, he doesn't go over 100 pitches that often. He'll be lucky to make it through four.


The war paint is back!

Bryce Harper used to do this all the time when he was playing college ball, but he stopped when he got to the pros. I figured it was because someone told him to knock it off, or because he felt like it wasn't professional.

Surprise, suckers! It's back for the playoffs:




Cardinals, Mike Matheny set Game 2 lineup

During the Tony La Russa years in St. Louis, you could often count on La Russa to shake up lineups in the postseason, especially if the team had lost the previous day.

Mike Matheny is no Tony La Russa. His lineup for Game 2 is precisely the same as the lineup for Game 1, except, of course, for the pitcher:

1. Jon Jay* - CF
2. Carlos Beltran# - RF
3. Matt Holliday - LF
4. Allen Craig - 1B
5. Yadier Molina - C
6. David Freese - 3B
7. Daniel Descalso* - 2B
8. Pete Kozma - SS
9. Jaime Garcia - P

Garcia made five starts for the Cardinals in the 2011 postseason, throwing 25⅔ innings with a 4.21 ERA. Lifetime against the Nationals he has a 3.74 ERA in four career starts covering 21⅔ innings. The last time he faced the Nats was August 30 in Washington, where he got roughed up for nine hits and six earned runs in 5⅓ innings, including home runs by Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper.

Current Nats are hitting .377 (29-for-77) against today's Nats starter, Jordan Zimmermann, with two home runs (David Freese and Matt Holliday).


Nationals, Davey Johnson set Game 2 lineup

Second verse, same as the first. Though the Nationals are facing left-hander Jaime Garcia, their lineup is exactly the same as it was when they were facing right-hander Adam Wainwright:

1. Jayson Werth - RF
2. Bryce Harper* - CF
3. Ryan Zimmerman - 3B
4. Adam LaRoche* - 1B
5. Michael Morse - LF
6. Ian Desmond - SS
7. Danny Espinosa# - 2B
8. Kurt Suzuki - C
9. Jordan Zimmermann - P

I'm starting to get used to the idea of Jayson Werth leading off, though I'm sure he'll be back in the middle of the lineup next year. Pretty sure the Nationals weren't looking for an expensive leadoff hitter when they got Werth.

Considering that Bryce Harper is a teenager, his .240/.300/.415 line against left-handers is kind of impressive. The other lefty in the lineup -- LaRoche -- has some platoon splits as well, but he still hits for power against southpaws, with a career line of .250/.305/.445.


Cardinals, Nationals: The shadows know

Shadows across the infield were a major problem in Game 1 in St. Louis. They could be again in Game 2, and in Washington for Game 3. How can MLB fix this scheduling issue?

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