There will be, and rightfully so, much angst headed into Game 3 about the state of Washington’s rotation, because if the Nationals are to win this series, they will have to win a game started by either Edwin Jackson or Ross Detwiler, and both were crushed by the Cardinals within the last two weeks.
But even in what felt like a blowout all day, there may be some things to grasp hold of as the Nationals prepare to face playoff veteran Chris Carpenter on Wednesday.
1. Bryce Harper has a hit. After going 0 for 5 with two strikeouts in Game 1, Harper struck out swinging in his first three plate appearances today. But in the seventh, he hit a classic hard grounder past second and into right-center, which he turned into a double. Yes, he got himself thrown out on the basepaths, but the flight home will feel a lot better knowing he’s not 0-for-the postseason.
2. Danny Espinosa can still hit the ball hard. No National looked more lost Monday than the second baseman, who struck out in his first three plate appearances. Today, he somehow drew a walk in his first time up — an indication of how much Cardinals’ starter Jaime Garcia struggled with his control. But in the sixth, Espinosa hit a rocket to center that looked gone off the bat. St. Louis center fielder Jon Jay reeled it in with a spectacular catch at the wall, but Espinosa followed that ball with a hard-hit single in the eighth. He, too, may feel better on the flight home.
3. The back end of the bullpen will be rested and confident. OK, this might be reaching, because any Nationals fan would prefer that Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen were in position to be used Monday. But keep in mind how much Clippard was struggling late in the year, when Storen essentially took the closer’s job away from him. Monday, Clippard not only looked good in the eighth, he had to get four outs because of Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing error. Storen followed with a dominant ninth against the top of the Cardinals’ order — Jay, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday — to make a tough save look easy.
4. They don’t have to see St. Louis again. Whatever happens in D.C., the red-clad, towel-waving crowd that grew very loud in the eighth inning tonight is a group the Nats can kiss goodbye. They will either win the series in Washington to advance and host the first two games of the NLCS, or they will lose in front of the home crowd.
Either way, get ready for at least two games — and let’s bet on three — at Nationals Park.