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St. Louis Cardinals shock Washington Nationals, come back from 6-0 to win NLDS

The St. Louis Cardinals shocked the Washington Nationals Friday, coming back from 6-0 down to win the NLDS.

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Nats fans hit hard by stunning season conclusion

It was a moment of jubilation for Cardinals fans. The Red Birds scored four runs in the ninth inning to complete one of the most amazing single-game comebacks in history. On the other side of that jubilation was shock for Washington Nationals fans. SB Nation's Federal Baseball described the moment you could hear a pin drop in the Nationals' stadium:

When the Cards finally took the lead the fans were stunned. Nationals Park fell silent in a moment. All at once. The finality of it hit long before Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman went down in order in the bottom of the inning. A long-suffering fanbase and city, moments and one strike away from a seven-game NLCS with the San Francisco Giants, was suddenly eliminated from the postseason.

It's going to sting for a little while, but Nationals fans can take solace that their young core will be coming back next spring and they'll have a little extra firepower in Stephen Strasburg, presumably for the entire season.

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Pete Kozma, bringing up BAbip

Pete Kozma knows how to reach sabermetricians' cold, cold hearts: By basically talking about himself like they do.

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MLB Pete Kozma isn't AAA Pete Kozma

The St. Louis Cardinals' NLDS hero, Pete Kozma, is not a lot like the Memphis Redbirds' Pete Kozma, who almost got himself released.

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Dan Descalso's unlikely Vlad Guerrero impression

The St. Louis Cardinals' Daniel Descalso slugged .324 in 2012 and hit his second home run of the NLDS in Friday's clincher.

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Cardinals advance to NLCS on late-game comeback

The Cardinals posted the biggest comeback in baseball history in a playoff elimination game with a win over the Nationals.

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Cards break Nats with 4-run 9th, advance to NLCS

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals met for Game 5 of the NLDS, and as befits these last few Cardinals teams, it was startlingly and surprisingly tense. The final score illustrates exactly the kind of game it was—messy, bizarre, and unwatchably anxious. And somehow, it ended in a Cardinals victory. Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma, of all people, were this year's heroes.

Adam Wainwright's struggles put the Cardinals into a 3-0 hole before the first out was recorded—and by the time he allowed his last home run, the team was down 6-0 and the Nationals were already being fitted for their NLCS patches. But the Cardinals' young new bullpen was nearly perfect for the next five innings; Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Edward Mujica, and Mitchell Boggs were all scoreless.

And in the meantime, the Cardinals put runs on the board. Never as many as we wanted them to—the Cardinals struggled with runners on and failed, continually, to turn brief rallies into lasting blow-ups. But they scratched and clawed runs together, and Daniel Descalso's home run brought them, briefly, within one run of the Nats.

Of course it came down to David Freese as the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of an elimination game. He worked a walk, Daniel Descalso shot a grounder past Ian Desmond to score two runs, and then Pete Kozma, once the Cardinals' biggest draft bust in years, shot a 2-2 line drive in front of Jayson Werth to score two more.

The Cardinals advance to the NLCS. Somehow, again.

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Kozma shocks Nats Park, drives in go-ahead runs

The St. Louis Cardinals' heart-attack-inducing postseason ways continued for another night on Friday, when reserve shortstop Pete Kozma shocked the Washington Nationals' capacity crowd in Game 5 of the NLDS with a go-ahead line drive with two outs in the top of the ninth innning. Daniel Descalso, who homered to bring the Cardinals within one in the eighth, had just tied the game; Kozma untied it, completing a Cardinals comeback that started with ace Adam Wainwright allowing six runs.

The Cardinals' season, for the second year in a row, came down again to David Freese at the plate with the go-ahead run. But Nationals closer Drew Storen walked him, and Daniel Descalso, who slugged just .324 in the regular season, hit a two-RBI single through shortstop Ian Desmond to bring the game from 7-5 to 7-7.

That brought up Pete Kozma—one of the worst hitters in the Pacific Coast League, and the Cardinals' starting shortstop only because they'd dumped Tyler Greene and Rafael Furcal had gotten hurt. He took two strikes before slashing a 95-mile-an-hour sinker into right field, scoring Freese and Descalso and leaving things up to Jason Motte in the ninth inning.

The Cardinals, for at least another half-inning, have done it again. I don't know how, but they did.

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Daniel Descalso homers to put Cards within 1

The St. Louis Cardinals have rallied all night but never been quite able to put it all together against the Washington Nationals, who built a 6-0 lead against Adam Wainwright early. But the sum total of all their missed opportunities and near-misses is now five runs, and after Daniel Descalso hit his second home run of the NLDS, an eighth-inning shot off Tyler Clippard, they're within a run.

Descalso, you'll remember, hit one home run in 2011 and four in 2012. His career slugging percentage is .337. But he's always had a strange kind of pull almost-power, the kind of power that only shows when he wraps a fly ball around the right field foul pole, and it's worked to the Cardinals' advantage in the 2012 postseason.

The Cardinals' bullpen has been nearly perfect, and that's been the difference; their young arms pitched like it was a one-run game from the beginning, and now it finally is one. But the Cardinals still need to open up a rally that culminates in something more than a walked-in run or an RBI groundout, and they're running out of time to do it.

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Cards' comebacks keep falling short in Game 5

For his second start of the NLDS Gio Gonzalez was nearly as wild as he was in Game 1. In Game 5 the St. Louis Cardinals again scored some runs but again were unable to capitalize fully on it, with Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina missing chances to tie a game that looked like a blowout in the first inning. The Cardinals trail the Washington Nationals 6-4 through seven innings, but those two misses with the bases loaded loom large in what could already have been a successful comeback.

Game 5's wildness came in the fifth inning. Gonzalez allowed a leadoff double to Daniel Descalso, and Pete Kozma followed it up with a line-drive single. Then Shane Robinson walked, to load the bases for the first time, before Jon Jay flinered his way into the inning's first out.

A wild pitch scored Descalso, and then Carlos Beltran walked to reload them. But Matt Holliday grounded into a force at home, Allen Craig drew a walk, and Yadier Molina flied out to end the threat. The Cardinals have given themselves plenty of opportunities to come back, but thus far none of them have gone quite enough.

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Bryce Harper homers, triples as Nats lead 6-0

Bryce Harper has a triple and a home run in his first two at-bats and the St. Louis Cardinals trail the Washington Nationals 6-0, with a trip to the NLCS on the line. That means Nationals fans are still on their seat-edges hoping for yet more runs, Cardinals fans probably have the game muted and are hoping for at least something, and the national press is prewriting their Bryce Harper cycle columns.

Adam Wainwright's weird season reached its pinnacle during his abbreviated start, with home runs and strikeouts coming in equal measures. The narrative about his sudden propensity for home runs—dormant since April or May—is back just in time to worry us for the entirety of the offseason, whether the Cardinals come back to win or not.

The Cardinals added a run in the top of the fourth inning to cut the deficit, but it's still pretty significant—they trail 6-1 after Matt Holliday's double plated Carlos Beltran. Joe Kelly entered the game to replace Wainwright, and he's likely to go multiple innings; if Bryce Harper's going to get his cycle, it'll have to come through him.

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Nats jump on Wainwright early, lead Game 5 3-0

St. Louis Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright allowed three consecutive extra-base hits to start Game 5 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals' surprisingly powerful first three batters, with a double to Jayson Werth, a triple to Bryce Harper, and a two-run home run to Ryan Zimmerman. All of them were on pitches that you would expect Werth, Harper, and Zimmerman to double, triple, and homer on. Then he struck out the side, but the Nationals had already taken a 3-0 lead and allowed the elimination crowd at Nationals Park to commence roaring.

Wainwright looked awful against those first three batters, and then he didn't—sometimes it's harder to say much more about an individual inning than that. The Cardinals never got anyone up in the bullpen, but you can be sure that they will if runners precede outs in the second inning.

Gio Gonzalez has been a little wild so far, but nothing compared to his seven-walk command in Game 1 of the series, which the Nationals somehow came back to win. The Cardinals' offense will need to be somewhat more active if they're going to return the favor on Friday. Follow along on SB Nation St. Louis for live updates throughout the game—and, hopefully, on into the celebration.

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The Curious Case of Corporal Daniel Descalso, USMC

Have you ever thought Daniel Descalso looks like a World War Two vet? If you did, you have a very keen eye.

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Cardinals vs. Nationals game 5 preview

Gio Gonzalez will face off against Adam Wainwright in the winner-take-all game 5 of the NLDS between the Nationals and Cardinals.

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Game 4 was a blown opportunity for the Cardinals

Despite Kyle Lohse allowing just two hits and one walk in his seven innings pitched, the Cardinals and Nationals remained tied until the bottom of the ninth when a Jayson Werth home run broke the game's tie and gave Washington their second win of the five-game series.

The missed opportunity to take advantage of Lohse's strong performance was "not entirely unfamiliar" to Cardinals fans, though, according to Dan Moore of SB Nation's St. Louis Cardinals blog, Viva El Birdos:

"...the Cardinals' not-entirely-unfamiliar inability to score runs for an effective starter played up a little more sinister than usual in this particular context-it wasn't just the way they'd left the game tied, it was proof that they'd eventually lose it, having failed to properly appreciate what they had."

And what they had was a very strong pitching performance that was essentially matched by the performance of Ross Detwiler and the Nationals' pitching staff. Each team finished with three hits, although the Cardinals were walked five times compared with just two times for the Nationals.

Yet, a pair of solo home runs for the Nationals was enough to earn the victory, as St. Louis left eight runners on base compared with just two for Washington.

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Jayson Werth walks off to force Game 5

Eight-and-a-half high-pressure innings into a 1-1 tie ballgame, Jayson Werth's walk-off home run forced an NLDS Game 5 that the St. Louis Cardinals probably could have avoided. The Washington Nationals, meanwhile, ride a lights-out bullpen and a solid start from Ross Detwiler into another elimination game. The Cardinals couldn't back Kyle Lohse all afternoon—he left, the score tied 1-1, after seven two-hit innings—and eventually that's just not something you can do as the away team.

Aside from the walk-off—on a bad fastball from Lance Lynn—and the Cardinals' vanishing offense, the big story from Game 4 is Jim Joyce's terrible strikezone, which got distracting enough to even warrant comment from TBS's broadcasting team. It was equal-opportunity terrible, but the ways in which it was terrible were so arbitrary and shifting as to be impossible to adjust at a given moment.

On the pitch before Werth's home run, with a 2-2 count, Lynn dropped a perfect curveball onto the bottom of the zone—and got a no-call for his troubles. Then, in Joyce's defense, Lynn threw the deeply imperfect fastball. The umpires aren't the reason the Cardinals lost—the reason is that they scored fewer runs than the Nationals. But in a sports environment that's still on heightened officiating alert, Joyce is probably going to hear it from Cardinals fans a little more than he would have last year.

Robot umpires. I'm just throwing that out there.

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Nationals win on Werth's home run in 9th inning

Jayson Werth's solo home run in the bottom of the ninth forced a Game 5 in the Washington-St. Louis NLDS.

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Jordan Zimmermann blows Cards away in relief

Jordan Zimmermann allowed five runs in three innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in their Game 2 victory over the Washington Nationals, but coming into Game 4 in relief—with the score tied 1-1 in the seventh inning—Zimmermann was outstanding, flashing a high-90s fastball and striking out the side on 12 pitches.

The side, admittedly, was Pete Kozma, Kyle Lohse, and Jon Jay. But Zimmermann, whose fastball averaged just under 94 miles per hour in the rotation this year, looked impressive enough to strike out any side you care to name in a one-inning role.

The Cardinals' Game 2 starter, Jaime Garcia, could have serious shoulder problems and was replaced on the postseason roster by top prospect Shelby Miller. Lance Lynn, who picked up the 12-4 win when Garcia left after two, has warmed up in the bullpen, but the Cardinals haven't needed to pull Lohse yet; he's allowed just one run, on an Adam LaRoche homer, in seven innings.

The Cardinals are a win away from clinching an NLCS berth for the second consecutive season. The Nationals have to win to force a decisive Game 5.

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Adam LaRoche, Pete Kozma score in quiet start

The Washington Nationals struck first on Thursday, with a big home run from first baseman Adam LaRoche, and while their lead didn't last it had to be a comfort to be the team doing the homering instead of the team getting homered. It was LaRoche's second of the postseason, but Ross Detwiler wasn't able to hold the 1-0 lead through the top of the third inning—Pete Kozma led off with a walk and scored after advancing on a sacrifice bunt, an error, and Carlos Beltran's sacrifice fly. That's where we find things after four innings, with both teams knotted at 1.

A little less than halfway through, this game looks much more like the Nats' narrow Game 1 win than it does the Game 2 and 3 blowouts; the Cardinals haven't been able to solve the left-hander Detwiler, who's pitching now with the weight of everyone's expectations for Stephen Strasburg weighing him down, and the Nationals have two hits (and baserunners) against Kyle Lohse, counting the home run.

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Lineups for Game 4 of the Cardinals-Nationals NLDS

St. Louis and Washington will roll out the same lineup for Thursday's Game 4

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Cards fans enjoy offensive outbursts

The St. Louis Cardinals grabbed control of the National League Division Series on Wednesday with an 8-0 whitewash victory over the Washington Nationals. It was the second straight dominant performance for the Cards, who are now one win away from the National League Championship Series.

After getting shut down for two runs in a Game 1 loss, the Cards' offense has exploded for 20 combined runs in Games 2 and 3. Dan Moore of SB Nation's Cardinals blog Viva El Birdos writes that while the offensive inconsistency can be frustrating at times, fans should take what they can get in the postseason:

It might not be good to score eight and 12 runs at a sitting when each game is worth less than a hundredth of the season. It might seem frustrating when they score one the next day, and you might be inclined to wonder why they can't save them for later.

In the postseason, though-I'll take every one of the last 20 runs the St. Louis Cardinals have scored. Especially the eight Wednesday, because even though Chris Carpenter is now 10-2 with an ERA of 2.88 in his postseason career, his scoreless start was so consistently almost-not-scoreless that I was almost surprised when I looked up at the scoreboard, near the end, and saw that it was 6-0.

Carpenter pitched 5⅔ innings of shutout ball, although he did labor through the start somewhat, giving up seven hits in the process. But despite some of Carpenter's struggles, Cards fans had little to worry about, as the offense staked him to an early 4-0 lead thanks to a three-run bomb by Pete Kozma. The Cards put insurance runs on the board in the later innings, leaving the outcome no longer in doubt.

The Cardinals will send Kyle Lohse to the mound on Thursday in Washington to try and clinch the series. The Nationals will counter with Ross Detwiler.

First pitch is at 3:07 p.m. CT.

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Kyle Lohse can advance the Cards again on Thursday

Kyle Lohse, winner of the St. Louis Cardinals' Wild Card play-in game, can push them into the NLCS with a win over the Washington Nationals Thursday.

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Cardinals beat Nationals 8-0, lead NLDS 2-1

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 top Nats in surprise blowout Game 3

Matt Holliday, struggling since early in September at something less than 100 percent, singled in the St. Louis Cardinals' seventh and eighth runs of the afternoon in the top of the eighth inning, suddenly confronting viewers of their NLDS Game 3 with the Washington Nationals with the possibility that they'd been watching a blowout the whole time.

It never felt that way. The Cardinals scored first, but Chris Carpenter was shaky in the bottom of the inning, and throughout his 5-and-change scoreless. He got out of the first with runners on the corners, and got out of the fifth with the bases loaded—both times against Michael Morse, one of the Nationals' most dangerous hitters. He left with a 5-0 lead, but it felt like a 5-4 lead that just hadn't quite hit the scoreboard yet.

In the seventh Yadier Molina drew a walk to plate the Cardinals' sixth run, and at that point you might have become suspicious. You might have become even suspicious when St. Louis went to extremely-hard-throwing-rookie Trevor Rosenthal instead of Mitchell Boggs and Edward Mujica in the late innings.

But when Matt Holliday, picking himself up after a ball off his shin sent him to the ground, drove in two runs to push it to 8-0—that's when you knew. And that's where the game ended. As well as the Nationals had played, the score had never been very close at all.

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Trevor Rosenthal sits at 98 vs. Nats Wednesday

Trevor Rosenthal throws extremely hard, as the Washington Nationals saw again on Wednesday.

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Carp escapes Michael Morse twice, goes 5 scoreless

The Chris Carpenter postseason experience is usually a little less nerve-racking than it proved on Wednesday, but against the odds the St. Louis Cardinals starter escaped his fourth start of the 2012 season with five shutout inning against the Washington Nationals. Eight baserunners reached for the Nationals, but with two outs in the first and the fifth Carpenter faced down the dangerous Michael Morse and retired him to end the thread. In the first Morse struck out on the first solid cutter Carpenter'd thrown all inning. In the fifth, with three of those eight on base following a full-count walk to Adam LaRoche, Carpenter induced a short fly ball to Morse to end the inning.

Carpenter, 9-2 in his postseason career, didn't have his best stuff on Wednesday, but he escaped every time. Edwin Jackson didn't—in the second inning, with runners on the corners and the light-hitting Pete Kozma up, he allowed a booming three-run homer to push St. Louis's early lead to 4-0, where it stands through five. Jackson left after five, and after 89 pitches it's likely the Cardinals will go to the bullpen as well.

But as unconventional and unrepeatable as their veteran ace's outing was, they have to be happy with the five innings they got from Chris Carpenter.

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Bryce Harper's vampire contacts

Bryce Harper is wearing red contact lenses, because everything Bryce Harper does is news.

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Chris Carpenter shaky early, but that's just fine

Chris Carpenter didn't look good in the first inning against the Washington Nationals, and he didn't look great in the second. But the St. Louis Cardinals' longtime ace escaped from both innings, striking out Michael Morse in the first inning and getting a pop-up from Edwin Jackson in the second, and in the meantime shortstop Pete Kozma reached Jackson with a three-run homer that gave the Cardinals' starter a 4-0 lead.

So, however he did it, Chris Carpenter threw three shutout innings. Which led some enterprising tweeters—here's B.J. Rains as a for instance—to point out what Carpenter's done in his career with a 4-0 lead. Hint: It's really neat.

Of course, most pitchers do pretty well with a four-run lead, and Chris Carpenter doesn't normally look this vulnerable. These stats are never quite so telling as they appear at first. But for now, it's more comfort than you might have been expecting going into this crucial Game 3.

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Pete Kozma launches a 3-run bomb in Game 3

After a shaky inning from Chris Carpenter, Pete Kozma was apparently just what the St. Louis Cardinals ordered against Edwin Jackson and the Washington Nationals. With runners on first and third after a David Freese double and a Daniel Descalso single, Kozma pulled a Jackson pitch high into the air and into the left field stands, putting the Cardinals up by a score of 4-0.

So far in the postseason Kozma, who hit the ball hard in September to earn a very unlikely starting job at shortstop, had been better recognized for his defensive miscues than those unlikely offensive fireworks. His inability to stay on a ball Matt Holliday probably should have called off precipitated the Great Infield Fly Riot of 2012, and his ugly bobble on a late-inning grounder cost the Cardinals in Game 1, giving the Nationals the extra out that led to Tyler Moore's game-winning blooper.

His baserunning prowess never dimmed, though, and Wednesday afternoon he gave the Cardinals a cushion it looked like they might need after Chris Carpenter narrowly escaped the first. If Pete Kozma can hit a three-run home run, obviously, no four-run lead is quite safe, but the Cardinals are in a great position going into the bottom of the second. And they owe it all to a guy who was just a spectacular draft bust two months ago.

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Game 3: Cards strike first on Allen Craig double

Allen Craig continued to impress for the second postseason in a row on Wednesday, putting the St. Louis Cardinals on the board with an RBI double on the road against the Washington Nationals in Game 3 of the NLDS. The score, after an incredibly precarious inning from Chris Carpenter, is 1-0.

Craig was 3-9 with a home run and a double already in his first two games. He hit three crucial home runs in the Cardinals' 2011 World Series victory over the Texas Rangers, driving in five and missing the MVP Award only on account of some guy named David Freese. He scored a spry-looking Matt Holliday, who singled through the left side to start the action.

With the series tied 1-1, this Nationals Park opener is likely to be the turning point in this best of five series; neither team can afford to go down in what's been a strange series so far. Carpenter and (familiar) Nationals starter Edwin Jackson will have short leashes, but by the time Mike Matheny and Davey Johnson pull on them, the damage could already be done.

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Carpenter, Jackson come by surprise in Game 3

Chris Carpenter is starting in Game 3 of the NLDS. This would not be surprising to a St. Louis Cardinals fan in 2011, or 2010, or 2009, but 2007, 2008, 2012? The Washington Nationals will be facing, Wednesday at noon, a pitcher who threw 17 innings this year—who had almost no experience at all in 2012 and also is 9-2 in 15 postseason starts. His last NLDS start was a three-hitter to beat Roy Halladay in Game 5; it's also his eighth-most-recent start period.

The Nationals will counter not with Stephen Strasburg but Edwin Jackson, who was on that same roster back in 2011. Jackson's a reassuringly average innings-eater, but he's not Strasburg, because nobody is. But the Nats have valued Strasburg's future innings over the ones he might provide today—even though they can't know the cost in future innings they might be skimping.

And so, two starters have been chosen for reasons that stretch beyond what happened last year. Davey Johnson and Mike Matheny are both playing hunches here; Wednesday, while you're sitting down to lunch, one of those hunches is going to pay off. The other is going to feed sports talk radio for the rest of the month, at least. For more on this weird paradox—well, I wrote several hundred words about it on Viva El Birdos.

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Mozeliak on Garcia's injury: "Frustrating"

Jaime Garcia didn't tell coaches he was feeling discomfort in his shoulder before starting Monday's NLDS Game 2, and later had an MRI

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Watch Jon Jay's dangerous catch (over and over)

Jon Jay stopped the Washington Nationals' sixth-inning rally before it even began with a catch that screamed Jim Edmonds during Monday's NLDS Game 2.

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Jaime Garcia removed from Cardinals roster

The St. Louis Cardinals have removed Jaime Garcia from their postseason roster after pulling him two innings into their 12-4 win over the Nationals on Monday.

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Jaime Garcia exits Game 2 with shoulder pain

Jaime Garcia was pulled after two innings of work against the Washington Nationals due to nagging shoulder pain.

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Beltran hits 2 homers—for the Cardinals, for once

The St. Louis Cardinals are used to Carlos Beltran hitting postseason home runs—they're just not used to being happy about it. The Cardinals' new right fielder hit his second home run of the afternoon in the eighth inning, part of a run that left the Washington Nationals down by a final score of 12-4 in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Each of Beltran's homers have come from the right side on Monday; he hit the first off Mike Gonzalez in the sixth inning and followed it with a two-run shot off of erstwhile National League Central reliever Sean Burnett in the eighth. The four-run outburst—Jon Jay also tripled in a run, and Allen Craig doubled and scored Matt Holliday on a Michael Morse error—took what had been a weirdly close 8-4 game and allowed the Cardinals to give Jason Motte the afternoon off, in favor of Trevor Rosenthal.

In 2004, Carlos Beltran nearly eliminated the Cardinals from the NLCS by himself, hitting .317 with four home runs and an OPS of 1.521. In 2006, by then with the Mets, Beltran hit three more home runs, finishing with an OPS of 1.054. After going 2-8 to begin the Cardinals' 2012 postseason run, on Monday Beltran finally showed St. Louis fans the form they'd had unpleasant dreams about since 2006.

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Cardinals ride 12 runs to Game 2 win

The St. Louis Cardinals won Game 2 of the NLDS—their last one at Busch Stadium—in an authoritative fashion, by an authoritative score of 12-4 over the Washington Nationals. But it took a while. Most of the afternoon the Cardinals, no matter how many runs they scored, seemed just barely ahead of a Nationals team that kept scoring. A 4-1 lead became a 7-1 lead, but then it was 7-3; they tacked another run on and the Nats got it right back. It wasn't until Carlos Beltran hit his second home run of the afternoon, pushing the score to 11-4, that things seemed secure in a game where starter Jaime Garcia lasted just two innings.

Offense defined the game—Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso also homered—but the Cardinals pitchers got some major help from two defensive plays. In the sixth, Jon Jay made one of the best catches of the year on what might have been a leadoff triple; shortly afterward, Descalso made a heads-up play to double off Bryce Harper on Matt Holliday's worst throw ever.

Lance Lynn, who allowed two runs in three innings in relief of Garcia, gets the win; Jordan Zimmermann, who lasted just three innings himself, takes the loss. The Cardinals and Nationals reconvene in D.C. on Wednesday, when Chris Carpenter will face 2011 Cardinals acquisition Edwin Jackson at 12:00 PM C.D.T.

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Bryce Harper deked by Holliday's worst throw ever

Bryce Harper and his hyper-aggressive baserunning were finally on board Monday, when the Washington Nationals rookie hit a hustle-double after three consecutive strikeouts, but it didn't take long before the St. Louis Cardinals retired him—on Matt Holliday's worst throw ever, which led directly to an unconventional double play. Here's how the scorecard came to read "Ryan Zimmerman flies into a sacrifice double play."

Zimmerman hit a liner to Holliday in left field. Jayson Werth scored from third, but Harper, standing on second, attempted to advance to third after Holliday's throw bounced a few feet in front of him and rolled toward the infield. It was a bad throw, but it wasn't bad enough—Daniel Descalso, who's already homered today, ran it down and threw it a little more correctly to Pete Kozma, beating Harper by a few feet.

It was a reasonable idea from Harper, but Descalso thought quickly and, however unlikely this might be, out-hustled him. The result was another Nationals rally struck down ahead of time, and a Cardinals lead that held, however unsteady, at 8-4 despite reliever Edward Mujica's rough performance.

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Jon Jay's brilliant catch stops Nats rally

The Washington Nationals were hitting seemingly everything out to the warning track in the fifth and sixth innings on Monday, chasing Lance Lynn with back-to-back home runs, and the first batter Joe Kelly saw, Danny Espinosa, had much the same experience. He hit a hard liner over center fielder Jon Jay's head—a sure double and a probable triple. And Jon Jay, sprinting toward the wall, leaped and caught it anyway, taking a face-full of padding with him.

You could try to put it in words in a million ways, though I'd probably wait to hear Mike Shannon tell it if you could. But these screenshots from Viva El Birdos regular and comment-collapser mojowo11 might explain it better:

So that's Jon Jay, making Busch Stadium erupt, making Joe Kelly really happy, and shutting down what could have been the Nationals' second rally in as many innings with a catch that made everybody think, pretty justifiably, "Jim Edmonds."

After a Carlos Beltran home run in the bottom of the inning the Cardinals lead the Nationals 8-3. Were it not for Jay's willingness to break his nose on a semi-regular basis, this could be a much different game.

UPDATE: It's been gif'd. Enjoy:

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Cards, Nats trade homers, St. Louis leads 7-3

The St. Louis Cardinals rode a surprising home run from Daniel Descalso and even more postseason baserunning heroics from Pete Kozma to two more runs, pushing their early lead in Game 2 of the NLDS to 7-1 over the Washington Nationals. After Sunday found both teams struggling to score at all the Cardinals have turned something on through four innings; they have eight hits, including a double and two home runs. In the fifth inning the Nationals finally got going themselves, cutting the deficit to 7-3 on back-to-back home runs from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche.

The Nationals got off to a rough start through four innings, but the home runs were an abrupt reminder that no lead is entirely safe in a game that's already gone to the bullpen—and that's already been occasion for four home runs. (The Cardinals' two solo shots are courtesy Allen Craig and, a little more surprisingly, Daniel Descalso, who slugged all of .324 during the 2012 regular season.)

The Cardinals' four-run cushion is nice, but this game's outcome is equally dependent on whether the Cardinals' bullpen can get the ball to Jason Motte a little more efficiently than it has through two postseason games. Joe Kelly, their second long reliever, began moving in the bullpen after Lance Lynn allowed the back-to-back shots.

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Cards chase Zimmermann, lead 6-1 in 4th

Jordan Zimmermann, the Washington Nationals' NLDS Game 2 starter, lasted just three innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. That might be a quick hook in other contexts, but he's already lasted longer than Jaime Garcia, whom the Cardinals pulled after two. Zimmermann allowed five runs in three innings, allowing seven hits and an Allen Craig home run; through three-and-a-half, the Nationals trailed by a score of 5-1.

In Zimmermann's defense, he also has the Nationals' only RBI. Zimmermann's always been known for his command, but that didn't play as a virtue in this off-kilter NLDS; meanwhile, Sunday's Nats starter, Gio Gonzalez, allowed two runs while throwing a no-hitter because his command was so bad, and the Nationals won anyway. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be the good guy, apparently.

Zimmermann was replaced on the mound by Craig Stammen, who's unlikely to go deep into the game after facing eight batters on Sunday. The Cardinals went with regular season starter Lance Lynn in replacement of Garcia; he's thrown two scoreless innings and struck out four. Stammen allowed a home run on his third pitch of the afternoon to Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso, who had four regular season home runs.

It's increasingly looking like this will be a weird one—the Cardinals now lead 6-1, with both starters gone and each bullpens set to go two-thirds of the game.

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David Freese strikes again as Cards take 5-1 lead

The St. Louis Cardinals got some crucial postseason runs on a booming opposite-field hit to right field from David Freese on Monday, if you can believe it. After the Washington Nationals pushed a run across early the Cardinals rallied in the bottom of the second with base hits from Allen Craig and Yadier Molina to start their half of the frame. That left Jordan Zimmermann to face David Freese, who took a 3-1 pitch to the base of the wall over Bryce Harper's head.

That scored Craig and began in earnest a four-run inning, leaving Freese, once again, as the Cardinals' primary postseason instigator. Freese also had two of the Cardinals' three hits in their Game 1 loss on Sunday. The RBI is number 22 in his postseason career, which spans 71 at-bats.

The Cardinals now lead 5-1 in the bottom of the third, having been boosted by a moonshot from Craig around the foul pole. Jaime Garcia is already out of the game, replaced by Lance Lynn after a shaky start, but thanks to the Cardinals' offense—led, somehow, by David Freese again—it doesn't feel like a panic move.

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Lance Lynn replaces Jaime Garcia in the 3rd inning

Home or away, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has a quick hook for Jaime Garcia. The Cardinals' ostensibly mercurial left-hander struggled with inconsistent umpires and inconsistent command through two innings, and while he was mostly able to limit the damage, allowing just one of five baserunners to score, he was pulled for pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker in the bottom of the second inning after just 51 pitches. Lance Lynn came in to start the third in his place; he struck out two Washington Nationals in a scoreless inning to start.

There are mitigating circumstances, of course. Garcia's spot in the order came with runners on and the Cardinals in the midst of their best rally of the young series, and Schumaker got an RBI on an opposite-field grounder that would have been a single if it weren't for a diving Ian Desmond. The move does little to push against a certain subset of fans' continued insistence that Jaime Garcia is an inconsistent diva who can't pitch on the road, but that's the sort of good work that can wait until the regular season.

Lynn is likely to go multiple innings; if he's unable to, the Caridnals' bullpen also contains Joe Kelly, who at various times replaced both Lynn and Garcia in the rotation.

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Shadow madness strikes umpires, Jaime Garcia

Game 2 of the NLDS between the Washington Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals continued the "Busch Stadium shadows" narrative early, but things seems to be bothering the umpires and the game's starting pitchers more than they do the hitters, so far. In an attempt to separate truth from cruft—it is undeniably true that there are some weird shadows around Busch Stadium this time of day. Here's Drew Silva of Rotowire with an example from Twitter:

So that's definitely there. But the Cardinals have some hits, and the Nationals are doing just fine, so it seems that Monday, at least, you'd have to assume the starting pitchers and even the umpires were being bothered by the ersatz shadow-arch more than the hitters themselves.

Jaime Garcia—already out of the game—walked three and struck out three. He wasn't great, but he wasn't quite as bad as the numbers and the balls and strikes (51 pitches, 29 strikes) might suggest; an inconsistent strikezone is bad news for a pitcher who works at its edges with a bunch of weird breaking pitches. I don't know what percentage of blame can go to the umpires for Garcia's performance so far—his own just-barely-too-fine-ness and Matheny's nerves are probably more to blame—but you can rest assured that he'll be the latest victim of the Shadow Madness if the hitters are too good to complain about it on Monday.

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Nationals vs. Cardinals: Zimmermann gets start

Game 2 of the NLDS will open at Busch Stadium at 3:30 p.m. CT, and Jordan Zimmermann will be taking the mound for the Washington Nationals.

In his second full season with the Nationals, Zimmerman blossomed into a fine starting candidate, though not as solid as their Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez. After going 8-11 with a 3.18 ERA in 2011, the now 26-year-old pushed his numbers up across the board for 2012. The result was a 12-8 season with a 2.94 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 32 games pitched, helping the Nationals stay just as solid in the middle of their rotation as they were at the top on their way to the postseason.

This will be Zimmerman's first ever postseason start.

Zimmerman, though starting Game 2 of the NLDS, is only the third best pitcher they could have had available ahead of the Cardinals series. They shut down their ace youngster Stephen Strasburg prior to the regular season ending.

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Jaime Garcia starts at home, for what it's worth

Jaime Garcia gets the nod for the St. Louis Cardinals in NLDS Game 2. Whether it matters or not, he's at Busch Stadium.

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Cardinals vs. Nationals Game 2 schedule, TV, etc.

The Washington Nationals visit the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 2 of the National League Division Series Monday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. CDT. Here's how to tune in.

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Matheny's errors compounded Kozma's in loss

The St. Louis Cardinals lost Game 1 of the NLDS to the Washington Nationals on Sunday primarily because they weren't able to take advantage of numerous chances to build on a 2-1 lead they generated mostly thanks to Gio Gonzalez's goodwill, but after the game all eyes were justifiably on the strange decisions rookie manager Mike Matheny made while the Cardinals were still holding on. Most pressing: With two on and two outs, and Mitchell Boggs having just struck out Kurt Suzuki on a high-90s fastball, Matheny pulled his set-up man in favor of Marc Rzepczynski, to get the platoon advantage on pinch-hitter Chad Tracy.

Davey Johnson, of course, pulled his pinch hitter to get the platoon advantage on Marc Rzepczynski. Scrabble didn't pitch badly, but Tyler Moore sent a blooper on a pitch outside into the outfield for the Nationals' tying and game-winning runs. Matheny was simply out-managed in the eighth, and it came not because he under-managed but because he over-managed. Instead of leaving Boggs in or even going to his closer, Jason Motte, he attempted to get ahead of a platoon bench bat without realizing that Johnson had nothing to lose in burning Tracy.

In the bottom of the inning, Matheny again tried to do to much—David Freese reached on an error with nobody out, and instead of hoping for a rally Matheny bunted one of the Cardinals' six remaining outs away, pinch-running for Freese with Adron Chambers while he was at it. The bunt worked, but it also took the pressure off the Nationals bullpen that had been created by an error.

That is: The same pressure that eventually caused Boggs and Rzepczynski to lose control of the top of the eighth inning. The way Johnson and Matheny each handled their gift baserunner says a lot about the things Mike Matheny still has to learn; it wasn't the reason that the Cardinals lost to the Nationals, but it needlessly complicated their potential win.

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Nationals win 3-2 on shortstop, manager errors

The St. Louis Cardinals had a 2-1 lead for most of the afternoon in Sunday's NLDS Game 1, but it was never very secure, and it was never what it could have been. Two runs on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly were all the Cardinals could score despite taking seven walks and reaching twice on errors, and when, in the top of the eighth, the Nationals took a 3-2 lead following a Pete Kozma error, it seemed almost inevitable.

The Cardinals' inability to take advantage of multiple scoring opportunities was their primary problem all day, but manager Mike Matheny will hear about two particularly strange decisions he made with the game on the line. In the top of the eighth, Matheny went to left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski against pinch-hitter Chad Tracy, but the Nationals countered with right-hander Tyler Moore, who blooped a two-RBI single just over the infield. Boggs had just gotten a crucial strikeout, and Jason Motte was looming in the bullpen.

In the bottom of the inning, the Cardinals' first batter reached on an error, but with the bottom of the order coming Matheny proceeded to call for a bunt, using up one of the Cardinals' six remaining outs. The next five passed without incident, and the Nationals had Game 1 of the NLDS by a final score of 3-2.

None of that would have mattered if the Cardinals had just scored some runs when they had every chance to do it. But the manager's job is to be seen and not heard, and he exacerbated the Cardinals' problems with his late-inning work.

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Kozma error puts Nats up 3-2 in eighth

For the second game in a row a Pete Kozma error complicated things for St. Louis Cardinals set-up man Mitchell Boggs. Kozma bobbled a grounder from Washington National leadoff man Mitchell Boggs, and while the Cardinals nearly got out of their eighth-inning jam for the second time in a row, pinch-hitter Tyler Moore singled off lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski with two outs and two on to put the Nationals up 3-2 after the top of the eighth.

Kozma, who struggled with errors in the minor leagues, finds himself in the doghouse again after allowing the tying run to reach base. But the Cardinals trail for a variety of reasons, and their problems with runners in scoring position and driving in all the baserunners the Nationals gifted them have played just as acute a role in their inability to hold a tenuous 2-1 lead.

The Cardinals have two innings and home-field advantage to get back on top, but they'll need to show some hitting ability that they haven't managed thus far after two unearned runs finally spelled the end of their two-run lead. They'll see Tyler Clippard in the eighth with a chance to make the runs up.

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Cardinals take 2-1 lead into the bullpen

Things could be worse for the Washington Nationals, who trail by a score of 2-1 in the seventh inning, and they could be a lot better for the St. Louis Cardinals. Game 1 of the NLDS got off to a weird start when Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals' ace, allowed seven walks and two runs while still throwing a no-hitter, but the Cardinals' inability to combine a big hit with all those walks means they don't have more. With both bullpens in the game each team is still looking for a game-changing hit.

The Cardinals' offense was patient against Gio Gonzalez, but it wasn't potent. The two runs scored on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly, and the Cardinals' hardest-hit ball of the night, a Daniel Descalso bomb to right field, was caught in a leaping grab at the fence by Jayson Werth that was startlingly reminiscent of Jason Heyward's play in the Wild Card game on Friday.

The Cardinals have the lead, and they have Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte set to reprise their eighth and ninth-inning roles once again. But they've missed multiple chances to break this game wide open, and if they get another they'll need to take advantage before the Nationals do.

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Adam Wainwright Ks 10 in return to postseason

Adam Wainwright has pitched in just two postseason games since 2006, when he emerged as the St. Louis Cardinals' untouchable closer in their improbable World Series run. In 2009 he lost a heartbreaker against the Dodgers, going eight innings and allowing a run. In 2012, his first start since, he struck out 10 Washington Nationals in 5.2 innings and left with the lead.

Wainwright wasn't perfect; he walked three and allowed six hits, and with two on and two out he was pulled for Lance Lynn, who walked Roger Bernadina before striking out Jayson Werth to end the bases-loaded threat. But he was excellent, and the break on his curveball and the velocity of his fastball suggested that the Cardinals have nothing to worry about if he's to lead them deep into the postseason.

And he outpitched Gio Gonzalez, who allowed two runs in the middle of a no-hitter and walked seven but somehow escaped with just those two allowed. The Cardinals will have to add some runs before anybody feels very secure about this lead, but Adam Wainwright leaves the game having done his job. In 2006 he was the last thing standing between the Cardinals and a victory; in 2012 as in 2009 he'll have to watch from the dugout as the Cardinals try to hold on.

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Gio Gonzalez allows two runs during a no-hitter

Game 1 of the NLDS began with a peculiar no-hitter.

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Gio Gonzalez's wild pitching puts Cards on top

Through an inning-and-a-half the St. Louis Cardinals trailed the Washington Nationals 1-0 in Game 1 of the 2012 NLDS. But for an MLB playoff game with two aces going, this one looks surprisingly nebulous. The key for the Cardinals: Gio Gonzalez's wildness.

Gonzalez's control was always perceived as his main issue in Oakland, but in his first season with the Nationals following a blockbuster trade he hit a new career low in walk rate, getting under the psychologically important four-per-nine-innings mark. Now he's got five walks already, including four in the inning, and he tied the score at one by throwing a 2-2 wild pitch behind Adam Wainwright. After Wainwright walked, Jon Jay hit a sacrifice fly to opposite field to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead.

Gio Gonzalez finished the inning with 49 pitches, against just 22 strikes. The Cardinals, of course, will have to be wary—Wainwright, their own ace has thrown 33 pitches and 13 balls himself through two innings, and walked Gio Gonzalez on four pitches his first time up. So far, it looks like both teams' aces will be on short leashes, with each lineup taking pitches until someone proves he can throw consistent strikes.

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Wainwright shaky as Nats take 1-0 lead

Kurt Suzuki put the Washington Nationals on the board in Game 1 of the NLDS with an RBI single, leaving the St. Louis Cardinals to trail in each of their first two postseason games. Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals' ace, looks shaky through two inning, striking out four but also allowing two hits and two walks.

Wainwright has flashed an impeccable curveball through two innings, but he's struggled, at times, to get his sinking fastball into the strike zone. He hasn't struggled with throwing it, though—on his first-and-third strikeout to Danny Espinosa, after two consecutive curveballs for swinging strikes, he busted him inside with a 93-mile-an-hour fastball for called strike three.

Then, of course, he allowed a Suzuki single and walked opposite number Gio Gonzalez on four pitches. If he settles in, the Nationals are going to have a hard time adding another run to this early lead; if he doesn't, the Cardinals are going to have to get the bullpen going after five innings. Through an inning and a half, the Cardinals trail by a score of 1-0.

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How Adam Wainwright outpitched Gio Gonzalez

Adam Wainwright had what looked like an off-year on his way back from elbow surgery, but he remains the St. Louis Cardinals' ace.

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Cards kick off NLDS on Sunday against the Nats

The Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals will kick off the NLDS on Sunday, with Gio Gonzalez taking on Adam Wainwright.

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Gio Gonzalez leads the Nats rotation into the NLDS

After coming over from the Athletics, Gio Gonzalez made minor improvements across the board

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NLDS umps announced; infield fly opinions unknown

MLB announces the crew assigned to call the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals

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Cardinals vs. Nationals NLDS game times set

The first two games of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals will take place in St. Louis, starting with a Sunday Oct. 7 game at Busch Stadium.

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