It was a day late, but the St. Louis Cardinals finally showed a post-season audience one of baseball’s best offenses.
Just a day after being held to three hits, the Cardinals busted out big time against Jordan Zimmermann and the Washington Nationals, scoring in five different innings and clubbing four home runs in a comprehensive 12-4 win in Game 2 of the National League Division Series Monday at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals win evened the series at one win apiece and set the stage for what becomes a best-of-three series at Nationals Park beginning Wednesday.
With Monday’s game starting at 3:30 PM local time, much of the pre-game speculation centered around the shadows on the field that had contributed to a low-scoring affair in Game 1. But it became apparent pretty quick that this was not Game 1.
The Cardinals Jaime Garcia started out shaky, walking a pair in the first inning and another in the second. Two Nationals hits in the latter inning sandwiched around that walk led to the game’s first run, with Zimmermann himself getting the RBI on a butcher-boy single to right that scored Ian Desmond from second. Desmond, who led off the inning with his fourth hit of the series already, steamed through a stop sign by third base coach Bo Porter and scored easily when Carlos Beltran hesitated in right field.
But just like Game 1 starter Gio Gonzalez, Zimmermann could not hold the lead in the bottom half. This time however, it was the Cardinals offense that did the damage.
St. Louis collected four straight hits to start the inning, the big one being a double to right by David Freese that tied the game at 1-1. After failing so many times with runners in scoring position on Sunday, the Cardinals used Freese’s hit as a harbinger of things to come.
Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay also singled in runs that inning, and by the time the dust settled, the Nationals trailed 4-1. Garcia was already out of the game at this point, lifted by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny after two unimpressive innings, with 18-game winner Lance Lynn taking over on the mound.
Allen Craig touched Zimmermann for a solo home run in the third inning that effectively closed the book on the right-hander, whose struggles against St. Louis continued. Zimmermann’s career ERA against the Cardinals rose to 9.73 after this outing and he left after three innings needing the bullpen to put up zeroes to help get him off the hook. Unfortunately for Washington, not enough of the relievers summoned by Davey Johnson were up to the task.
- Craig Stammen surrendered a first pitch home run to Descalso and gave up another run on an error by Danny Espinosa at second base in an outing lasting less than an inning.
- Mike Gonzalez gave up a laser home run to Beltran in the sixth, his first of two long balls in the late innings.
- Sean Burnett came on in the ninth and gave up a double, a triple and another homer before walking Matt Holliday, who had done nothing in the series to that point.
- Tom Gorzelanny gave up a double to Craig to close out the scoring, mercifully.
Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche hit back-to-back homers in the fifth inning off a tiring Lynn, reducing the deficit at the time to 7-3. And when Espinosa led off the sixth with a drive to left-center it appeared as if Washington was in business again. But Jay made a splendid catch, leaping to corral the ball just a split-second before slamming into the wall, and that may have been the point when you knew this wasn’t going to be Washington’s night.
The final Washington run came about in the seventh, but again, it could have been more. Jayson Werth greeted Edward Mujica with a single and Bryce Harper followed with a hard grounder into right-center that he stretched into a double. It was the rookie’s first hit of the series as he battled strep throat and some overaggressiveness en route to an 0-for-8 performance to that point with five strikeouts.
Zimmerman then lined out to left, easily scoring Werth to make it 8-4, but when Holliday threw the ball almost straight into the ground, Harper took off for third. But the Cardinals alertly covered the play, as Descalso ran the ball down and threw to shortstop Pete Kozma covering third to erase Harper and the Nationals last threat.
Champ of the Game: Many options for the Cardinals, but Carlos Beltran gets the nod for two looong home runs to keep the Cardinals lead safely in the “comfortable” range. For Washington, Zimmerman had two hits and two RBIs along with his homer.
Chump of the Game: Jordan Zimmermann couldn’t take advantage of the late-afternoon shadows, giving up five runs on seven hits in just three innings of work. For St. Louis, Holliday was the only position player without a hit.
Next Game: The action shifts to Nationals Park for the remainder of the series. Game 3 is set for a 1 PM ET start on Wednesday, with Chris Carpenter continuing his comeback for the Cardinals against Washington’s Edwin Jackson, who at this time last season was pitching for St. Louis in the playoffs.