Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jordan Zimmermann faces Jaime Garcia in Game 2 today at Busch Stadium.
So the pressure today at Busch Stadium is squarely on the defending World Series champs, not the first-time playoff participants. Which means the pressure is on Game 2 starter Jamie Garcia to get his team back on track. The left-hander had an up-and-down season but he finished strong, going 4-1 with a 2.50 ERA over his last six starts (after the Nats got him for six runs in late-August).
Jordan Zimmermann makes his first career postseason start, and if you think the right-hander is fazed at all by the situation, you don't know him very well. "I really never get nervous for any games," he said yesterday. "The only game I really got nervous for was my debut [in 2009]. And I don't see anything changing this time."
We've got another afternoon start here in St. Louis, so look for the Shadow Monster to be a factor again. And for everyone who keeps asking: No, MLB has not yet announced a start time for Game 3 on Wednesday. As soon as they do, I will pass it along. I promise.
In the meantime, plenty of updates from today's game to come right here...
NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES - GAME 2
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Where: Busch Stadium
Gametime: 4:37 p.m. EDT
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), WSPZ (570 AM), XM 184
Weather: Sunny, 60 degrees, Wind 10 mph out to RF
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
CF Jon Jay
RF Carlos Beltran
LF Matt Holliday
1B Allen Craig
C Yadier Molina
3B David Freese
2B Daniel Descalso
SS Pete Kozma
LHP Jaime Garcia
HP Marvin Hudson
1B Joe West (cc)
2B Jim Joyce
3B Alfonso Marquez
LF Ed Hickox
RF Paul Emmel
4:38 p.m. -- And we're underway on a 61-degree afternoon in St. Louis. Shadows covering the plate and almost reaching the mound, but not quite there yet.
4:50 p.m. -- The Nationals got two men on base in the top of the first, with Jayson Werth drawing a leadoff walk and Adam LaRoche getting the benefit of the doubt on a 3-2 check swing to draw a two-out walk. That set the stage for Michael Morse ... who grounded out to second. So the Nats are 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position today. We go to the bottom of the first.
4:57 p.m. -- Jordan Zimmermann couldn't have drawn his first inning up much better than that. He retired the side on 13 pitches, 10 strikes, striking out Jon Jay looking at a 95 mph fastball off the outside corner and then got a couple weak grounders to second base to end the inning. A superb start to Zimmermann's afternoon. Scoreless after one.
5:17 p.m. -- And the Nats get on the board first, thanks to a clutch hit from one of their real offensive forces ... Jordan Zimmermann. Yep, the right-hander has always handled the bat well, and it did it quite well in the top of the second, blooping a base hit to right with two on and one out and scoring Ian Desmond (who ran right through Bo Porter's stop sign) to give the Nats a 1-0 lead. So, to recap: The three Nationals who have driven in runs so far in this series are Kurt Suzuki, Tyler Moore and Jordan Zimmermann. Who'd have thunk it? 1-0 as we go to the bottom of the second.
5:38 p.m. -- That did not go well for Zimmermann. He allowed five hits in the bottom of the second, including four straight to open the inning. Four Cardinals wound up scoring thanks to RBI from David Freese, Daniel Descalso, Skip Schumaker and Jon Jay. The only bright spot for the Nationals: Mike Matheny decided to go for the knockout punch early and sent up Schumaker to pinch-hit for Garcia. So now the Cardinals will need to get 21 outs from their bullpen, with Lance Lynn the first man up. We go to the third, and the Nats now trail 4-1.
5:59 p.m. -- And Zimmermann's struggles against the Cardinals continue as Allen Craig destroys an inside fastball down the left-field line for a solo homer in the third. An infield single by Yadier Molina -- the seventh allowed by Zimmermann to the last 11 batters he faced -- finally prompted Davey Johnson to get his bullpen up and moving around. Zimmermann finally got out of the inning thanks to a fantastic diving play by Ryan Zimmerman at third. But the Nats now trail 5-1 after three. Craig Stammen is still warming as the top of the fourth begins, and the pitcher's spot is due up third. Looks like that will be it for Jordan.
6:08 p.m. -- That is indeed it for Zimmermann, who is pulled after allowing five runs in three innings. That matches the shortest of his 82 career starts, and the two previous ones both came in Sept. 2010, his first month back from Tommy John surgery. The Nats, meanwhile, have done nothing against Lance Lynn. So we move to the bottom of the fourth, the deficit still 5-1 as Stammen enters from the bullpen.
6:27 p.m. -- This one spiraled out of control in a hurry, didn't it? Stammen was greeted immediately in the bottom of the fourth by Daniel Descalso, who launched a homer into the petunia bed beyond the fence in right-center. The right-hander never could right himself and was pulled after recording only one out and allowing two runs to score (aided by Espinosa's error and Pete Kozma's hustle). In came Christian Garcia, who got out of the mess, but not before the Cardinals opened up a 7-1 lead as we go to the fifth.
6:37 p.m. -- Well, hold the phone. The Nats haven't quite given up yet. Ryan Zimmerman orders his first round of postseason cortisone shots and deposits a ball into the left-field bullpen. Adam LaRoche immediately follows with a shot into the petunia bed in right field. Just like that, the deficit has been trimmed to 7-3 as the Nats show some signs of life in the fifth.
6:53 p.m. -- It's been a battle all afternoon/evening, but Garcia managed to get through the bottom of the fifth without allowing a run to score. It's still 7-3 as we enter the sixth inning of a game that began 2 hours and 15 minutes ago.
6:57 p.m. -- The Nats are starting to hit the ball hard. Unfortunately, they're hitting them just close enough to Cardinals fielders to make the play. Espinosa launched a ball deep to left-center to open the sixth but was stone-cold robbed by Jay, who slammed into the wall to make a fantastic catch and rob Espinosa of extra bases. Steve Lombardozzi (pinch-hitting for Garcia) also smoked a line drive, but right at Kozma at shortstop. So the deficit remains 7-3 as we move to the bottom of the sixth, Michael Gonzalez now on the mound.
7:06 p.m. -- Carlos Beltran launches one off the facing of the third deck down the left-field line. That makes it 8-3 as the Nationals' deficit grows larger and the number of outs they have left to work with diminishes. Seventh inning upcoming.
7:15 p.m. -- Strange doings in the top of the seventh. The Nats got themselves in business thanks to Werth's leadoff single and Harper's hustle double (his first postseason hit in nine at-bats). Zimmerman then smoked a liner to left, but right at Holliday. Werth tagged and scored, but when Holliday shanked his throw, Harper tried to advance to third. Bad idea. He was thrown out at third base, a real no-no when trailing by four runs. So it's now 8-4, but the Nats are down to their last six outs.
7:36 p.m. -- Here we go again: Mitchell Boggs on the mound with 2 on in the eighth. Chad Tracy sent up to pinch-hit. This time, Mike Matheny stuck with that matchup and didn't bring in the lefty. And it paid off, because Tracy popped up on the first pitch. The Nats are down to their last three outs, still down 8-4.
7:55 p.m. -- Make it 12-4 as the Cardinals keep their foot on the gas pedal in the bottom of the eighth against Sean Burnett. Three extra-base hits off the lefty, including another bomb by Beltran, this one into Albert Pujols territory beyond the left-field bullpen. Is it over yet?
8:05 p.m. -- It is now. Final score: Cards 12, Nats 4. Series tied at one game apiece. Game 3 Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park, the first postseason game played in D.C. in 79 years.