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Nationals vs. Cardinals, 2012 NLDS: St. Louis tries to maintain playoff momentum against Washington

The Cardinals won their way into a Wild Card berth and now look to make another run at the World Series.

Scott Cunningham - Getty Images

The St. Louis Cardinals are back in familiar territory, playing intense playoff games in October for a shot at defending their World Series championship.

When the Cards host the Washington Nationals in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Sunday afternoon, they will be facing a Nationals team that will be learning on the fly about post-season play. The young Nationals team finished the season atop the NL East, and they showed their strength with a 98-64 record on the season to edge out the Cincinnati Reds for the best record in all of baseball.

The Cardinals took a different route, forced to finish the season strong and then hold off the Los Angeles Dodgers to secure the final Wild Card spot in the NL. The Cards finished the season 12-4 and then carried over that momentum to their do-or-die Wild Card game win over the Atlanta Braves to set up the best-of-five NLDS with that Nationals.

After the controversial finish in Atlanta, with chaos breaking out over a suspect infield fly ruling, the Cards are poised to grab the mantle of destiny's team if they can continue to make the breaks go their way.

First, the Cardinals will have to overcome with a tough matchup in Game 1 as the rested and ready Nationals will send 21-game winner, Gio Gonzalez to the mound for the 2:07 p.m. CT game on Sunday.