NL Division Series Game 3: Nationals vs. Cardinals

October 10, 2012
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See you tomorrow for Game 4


(Alex Brandon / AP)

Well, that wasn’t exactly the way Nationals wanted to welcome playoff baseball back to D.C. Edwin Jackson got shelled, the bullpen didn’t perform much better and once again the lineup failed to generate hits with runners on base.

Now the team with the best record in the regular season must regroup before a do-or-die Game 4 back at Nationals Park on Thursday at 4:07 p.m. And as poorly as the played today, a win would even the series and put the ball back in the hands of Gio Gonzalez for a one-game playoff at home.

The Nats will send Ross Detwiler (10-8, 3.40 ERA) to the mound to face Game 1 loser Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86), and there’s a good chance Washington will makes a change or two to its anemic lineup.

“The momentum is only as good as the last game,” MASN analyst F.P. Santangelo said after Wednesday’s game. “If you win tomorrow, if you win Game 4, then you have your ace going. So tomorrow is everything.”

Yes. Yes it is.

Chris Carpenter on Nats Park

With Chris Carpenter coming back from  a serious injury, the St. Louis starter was asked whether he was able to take a step back and enjoy the scene at any point during Game 3. He told reporters that it happened when umpire Joe West started talking about what a great day it was for a ballgame.

“Fantastic day, great weather, the crowd was amazing,” Carpenter agreed. “This is what you play for. I took it in a little bit, no question.”

Matt Holliday, meanwhile, praised the Nats, and repeatedly said that St. Louis shouldn’t assume the series is over.

“We still have to win one more, and that will be very difficult,” he told reporters. “While this is a good win, we still have work to do.”

More Strasburg talk

The MLB Network’s postgame show devoted yet more time to the Strasburg situation, under the guise that it was now a story again because of Ken Rosenthal’s column and Edwin Jackson’s performance.

“I just felt like they weren’t gonna win it without him, because he’s that equalizer, the guy that can neutralize you and get you a win,” Harold Reynolds said. “In the postseason, wins are so precious….When you see him throwing the ball like we saw earlier today, he was pitching, really letting it go a little bit. I feel for the young man.”

Al Leiter agreed, talking about the disruption the Shutdown might have had on a close-knit rotation.

“There’s a camaraderie there, it really is,” Leiter said. ” And it’s a trickle down. Your No. 2 is now your No. 1, your No. 3 is you’re No. 2….And I think it is a let-down.”

“The Strasburg thing, I’m on record, I believe they’re not gonna win without him,” Reynolds added.

Both men also said that an anonymous player telling Rosenthal that the Nats would have won both games in St. Louis with Strasburg was a needless distraction; “keep that junk in your clubhouse, don’t put it out there,” Reynolds said. “Now everyone’s talking about it; it puts an even bigger bullseye on the situation.”

And Reynolds, at least, acknowledged that 17 scoreless Strasburg innings wouldn’t have guaranteed a win on Wednesday.

“They may be 2-0 [in St. Louis] if they executed, too,” he said. “They didn’t play very well.”

Is a lineup shake-up in order?


Michael Morse and Bryce Harper were a combined 0 for 9 at the plate on Wednesday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

The Nationals stranded 11 men on base and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Ian Desmond went 3 for 4 and Ryan Zimmerman had two hits, but the rest of the team went a combined 2 for 26.

MASN analyst F.P. Santangelo said it may be time to make some changes to the lineup card ahead of Thursday’s Game 4.

“Managers tend to do some things out of the norm to get their teams going (in elimination games),” Santangelo said on MASN’s post-game broadcast. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lombardozzi in the order hitting second, and maybe you move Bryce Harper down in the order.”

Lombardozzi slapped a single in a pinch-hit at-bat, and could replace the slumping Danny Espinosa (1 for 9 in the series) at second base or Michael Morse in left field.

In his post-game presser, Nationals manager Davey Johnson credited the Cardinals pitchers with “making pitches” when Washington had runners on base. But MASN studio analyst Ray Knight saw something else Wednesday.

“Davey has said the pitchers have made pitches… but there’s been a lot of balls right down the middle that we’ve fouled off,” Knight said. “It’s not that they’ve been pitched to death, it’s just that they’re not hitting the pitches that they’ve been getting.”

Time for a team meeting?

Dave Jageler and Phil Wood had a discussion during 106.7 The Fan’s post-game show about whether Davey Johnson would have a team meeting prior to Game 4 on Thursday.

“The only team meeting would be Davey Johnson walking in the clubhouse and saying don’t let this slip away and walking away,” Wood said. “There’s not much you can say. The rah rah thing doesn’t really work in baseball….I think they’ve got a sense of pride, that they got this far, won 98 games. And I’m sure they’re embarrassed.”

“If there’s any message to be delivered individually and not in a group format, it’s we’ve got to win the first inning,” Jageler said. “Then after that win the second inning, and just win tomorrow’s game. And then everything else will take care of itself.”

Davey Johnson: “I’ve had my back to worse walls than this.”


(Robb Carr / AP)

In his post-game press conference, Nationals skipper Davey Johnson said his team “didn’t do the things we’ve done all year” in today’s loss to the Cardinals.

Asked about Edwin Jackson’s rocky start, Johnson said the former Cardinal took too long to settle in and find his pitches.

“He just made bad pitches,” Johnson said. “He wasn’t hitting his spots — a lot of pitches over the middle-half of the plate and good hitters are going to jump all over it, and that’s what happened today.”

Johnson was repeatedly asked about the pressure of the postseason and how it has affected his young, inexperienced team, but said he remains confident going into a win-or-go-home Game 4 on Thursday at Nationals Park.

“I take nothing for granted,” Johnson said. “We’re not out of this by a long shot. Shoot I’ve had my back to worse walls than this. But I like my ballclub and I think we’ll come out and play a good ballgame tomorrow.”

Ross Detwiler will take the ball Thursday for Johnson, who said he was not considering starting staff ace Gio Gonzalez on short rest.

“We lost another battle. We’ve got a couple more battles we need to win. And it comes down to our pitching.”

Chris Carpenter says he wouldn’t let LaRoche beat him

St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter’s biggest challenge in Game 3 came in the bottom of the 5th, when he faced Michael Morse with two outs and the bases loaded. After the game, Carpenter told the MLB Network that he was most scared of the previous batter, Adam LaRoche, who walked to load the bases.

“I wasn’t going to let Adam LaRoche hurt me,” Carpenter said. “He’s one of the most underrated hitters in the game, and he’s put some great at-bats on me, he’s a tough out for me. And in no way was I gonna let him hurt me. I went into that at-bat saying if he walks, he walks….Fortunately Michael Morse comes up, and I was able to make some pitches and get him out.”

Carpenter pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings, going over 100 pitches for the first time since his comeback began.

“It was just a constant grind,” he told MLBN. “They put some good at-bats on me, they got my pitch count up, and I was able to make pitches when I had to.”

And Game 4?

“Every game’s a big game,” Carpenter said. “We say that every day. It’s 2-1. We need to come out tomorrow and be ready to play. We’re confident in Kyle Lohse, we’re confident in our team and we’ll see what happens.”

Nationals lose to Cardinals, 8-0, fall to 2-1 in NLDS


(Patrick McDermott / Getty Images)

The Nationals played completely unlike themselves on Monday and again on Wednesday. Their trademark pitching was vulnerable and their hitting could muster little, especially in Game 3 against starter Chris Carpenter.

The Cardinals take a 2-1 lead in the series and the Nationals’ playoff hopes rest in 26-year-old left-hander Ross Detwiler, who has never made a playoff starter. Kyle Lohse, a 16-game winner and veteran, starts for the Cardinals.

Holding out hope

Not everyone has fled for the exits. The Post’s Sarah Kogod found a few young fans doing their part to spark a ninth-inning rally.

Left to right, Bridget Griffith, 9; Lucy Thomas, 9; Evan Thomas, 7; Maya Griffith, 12. (Sarah Kogod / The Washington Post)

Bob Costas on Strasburg

More than a few Nats fans had some dread that Stephen Strasburg Shutdown talk would dominate the broadcasts of their team’s first-ever playoff berth.

Of course, the dread of listening to the same old rundown of Strasburg talk does not compare to the dread of seeing their team whomped in the playoffs. But along with the whomping came that same old rundown.

I lost count of how many times Bob Costas discussed the situation in Game 3; the last time came after the game was out of reach, and is excerpted below. There will be much more of this talk in the next 24 hours. Many Nats fans might point out that Strasburg could pitch a perfect game and it wouldn’t matter if the team can’t score a single run. Anyhow, this is what Costas said, more or less. At least it was more interesting than talking about Jim Kaat’s baseball card.

“Mike Rizzo, the GM here, has done a brilliant job of assembling this team,” Costas said. “Farm system, occasional free agent acquisitions, astute trades. And he is steadfast in his belief that what they have done with Stephen Strasburg [is correct]….He knows a storm of criticism is coming. Some of it will come after this game, but more of it will come if they lose this series….

“You have to give him credit for the courage of his convictions, and you wonder what’s passing through the mind of Stephen Strasburg these days….It’s been noted that they could have started Strasburg in May, let’s say, could have gone to a 6-man rotation or put him on the disabled list, could have used him out of the bullpen, could have said what the heck [and gone to 180 innings]….

“Mike Rizzo is aware of all those things, and I discussed them with him again before the game today. And again, very politely and correctly, he said I understand all of those observations, but no one making those observations knows Stephen Strasburg as well as we do, no one knows our situation as well as we do. We have all the facts and all the knowledge, and this is our best judgment.”

Nationals are three outs away from facing elimination game

Fernando Salas pitched an easy 1-2-3 inning, with two flyouts and a strikeout of Danny Espinosa. Fans have been steadily streaming towards the exit and the Nationals offense has been, other than Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond, lifeless. The Cardinals finally got Desmond out with a flyout in the eighth inning.

Cardinals making it a blowout with 8-0 lead


Carlos Beltran makes it 8-0. (Nick Wass / AP)

Matt Holliday, after fouling a pitch off of his left leg and hobbling around, smacks a two-run single to left field in the eighth inning off of reliever Ryan Mattheus. The Cardinals now lead 8-0 and the Nationals have done next to nothing on offense.

The Nats, the Caps and postseason flops

Despite the dour mood on Twitter, today’s Game 3 is not an elimination game for the Nationals. But the deflating feeling of watching the home team suffer a bludgeoning at the hands of the St. Louis lineup and consistently fail to capitalize on their own numerous chances has fans experiencing a bit of deja vu.

Nats fans leaving early

Sarah sent along this photo of fans streaming out of Nats Park in the top of the eighth inning of D.C.’s first home playoff game in 79 years. A few moments after she sent this, the Cardinals pushed their lead to 8-0.

“That quiets the crowd here in Washington, and we’ll have more [fans] flooding into the streets here, going home shortly,” John Rooney said on the Cardinals radio broadcast.

Are the Nats pressing?


Kurt Suzuki reacts after yet another pop out. (Rob Carr / Getty Images)

Given what’s transpiring here, it’s a reasonable question to ask about the Nationals’ approach at the plate. Today, they have seven hits. Indeed, the first time they went down in order was in the seventh.

But they have stranded 10 runners. They have gone 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. And, in some instances, they look overwhelmed.

Bryce Harper is now 1 for 14 with six strikeouts. Danny Espinosa is 1 for 9 with four strikeouts. Kurt Suzuki is 1 for 10.

Before the game, Davey Johnson talked about his inexperienced hitters and their approach in St. Louis, where they were bothered by Busch Stadium’s shadows. He was asked particularly about Espinosa.

“That, combined with a little inexperience, you can be overly aggressive,” Johnson said. “I don’t hold that against him. He always feels like he’s the right guy at the right time to do something, and a lot of times, he does. But it’s just that inexperience. You can get overly aggressive and he needs to be a little more patient.”

With the season almost certainly on the line tomorrow, it’ll be interesting to see if Johnson makes any lineup changes. The most obvious juggle would be playing Steve Lombardozzi, who had a pinch-hit single today, for Espinosa. The issue: It wouldn’t bring any more experience, because Lombardozzi’s a rookie.

Largest crowd in Nationals Park history at Game 3

The announced attendance at today’s game is 45,017 .By the seventh inning, however, with the Nationals trailing 6-0, some fans were already headed to the Metro. 

Since Nationals Park opened in 2008, the previously largest crowd was an Aug. 20, 2011 game against the Philadelphia Phillies, which drew 44,685,

Trevor Rosenthal mows down the Nationals

The flame-throwing Cardinals reliever, who Bryce Harper said threw “absolute fuego,” sat down the Nationals in order in the seventh inning with ease. He got Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche to groundout and struck out Ryan Zimmerman on a 99 mph fastball. 

The Nationals are down to their last six outs, trailing 6-0.

St. Louis radio team says Nats fans are leaving

D.C. fans and media members in Nats Park on Wednesday have praised the enthusiasm of the crowd from well before the first pitch. The St. Louis radio crew was not as impressed.

“The crowd here is thinning out,” longtime play-by-play man John Rooney said in the bottom of the seventh. “Fans are going to the train, leaving the park, in left center field, toward the street, toward the platform.”

“This is the largest crowd in Nationals Park history,” Rooney later said. “Many of those fans are now jamming the street behind the wall in left-center field on the way to the train platform.”

 

 

 

Nationals pitching is struggling

Christian Garcia came on in relief in the seventh inning and allowed a run, giving the Cardinals a 6-0 lead. He allowed back-to-back singles to Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran to lead off the inning. Allen Craig was intentionally walked to load the bases but it backfired when Garcia struggled against Yadier Molina and walked him to bring in a run.

The Nationals pitching staff in the series: 7.13 ERA. The Cardinals: 1.88 ERA.

Time to play dirty?

Facing a five-run deficit in the seventh inning, the Nats are six outs away from an 2-1 hole in the series. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

The Post’s Joel Achenbach had some ideas before today’s game.

We should cheat. I know it’s “wrong.” It know that’s not “fair.” I know we all believe that “it’s not whether you win or lose that matters, it’s how you play the game.” This is a policy best enforced after we’ve already won the World Series. Honor can wait for the offseason.

Right now, if we fall behind in a game, we’ll need to implement some workarounds, such as trapdoors in the outfield so that at a key moment of the game a Cards player will simply vanish. We need to get out the special mirrors to flash sunlight in the batter’s eyes. We can activate the motors under the pitcher’s mound so that when their guy tries to pitch the entire mound jiggles.

We should tell our batboy to beat up the other team’s batboy, and then sabotage the bats. Switch ‘em out with fake bats. Picture this: Their big slugger gets up to the plate and discovers his bat is drooping.

This is a glorious moment for Washington baseball. Let’s take the appropriate desperate measures.

Read Joel’s full post on the Achenblog here.

Chris Carpenter out after two outs in the sixth


Chris Carpenter pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings and even picked up two hits. (Alex Brandon / AP)

The Cardinals right-handed starter was pulled for fire-balling reliever Trevor Rosenthal with two outs in the sixth inning. Carpenter, who overcame major injuries to return late this season, allowed a single to Ian Desmond (who is 7 for 11 in the series) and a single to pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi. 

That’s good news for the Nationals, who could muster little at all against Carpenter and have seen much of the Cardinals bullpen. 

Rosenthal got Jayson Werth to foul out to first baseman Allen Craig. Werth is 3 for 12 in the series, missing the chance to drive in important runs.

Seeing red


(Alex Brandon / AP)

Craig Stammen gives up a run, Cardinals lead 5-0


Yadier Molina crosses home to increase the lead to 5-0. (Shawn Thew/EPA)

The right-hander was called upon to relieve Edwin Jackson in the sixth inning, his third straight game of work. He struggled in Game 2 and continued on Wednesday. Despite battling a bit of a fever, possibly the same strep throat that Bryce Harper was dealing with, Manager Davey Johnson had him pitch the sixth. He hit Yadier Molina, gave up a double to David Freese and Daniel Descalso drove in the run with a sacrifice fly to right field.

The Nationals now trail 5-0.

Fifth inning conference call

The Post’s J. Freedom du Lac is at the ballpark, talking to fans who are playing hooky to watch the game.

As the game inched to its midway point, Bill Pierce re-charged, plugging his Blackberry adapter into an outlet on the back wall of the Stars and Stripes Club.

“I’m about to jump on a conference call,” said Pierce, senior director at a public affairs company, APCO Worldwide.

You can take the District baseball fan out of the office, but you can’t take the office out of the District baseball fan.

“This is Washington,” Pierce said. “We’re obsessed about our work.”

Throughout the game’s first four innings, he’d been reading and sending emails from his Section 220 seat. Now, he had to get on the phone to discuss a VA Department project.

“I’ve got one, two, three televisions that I can watch,” he said, pointing to the sets mounted over the lounge. “I’m not going to miss the game.”

The participants knew he was at the park, he added; a little cheering — or groaning — at the enclosed bar behind home plate wouldn’t be a problem. 

Nationals have struggled to score runs

Nationals in the series so far: 27 runners left on base, 25 strikeouts and they’re 3-for-23 with runners in scoring position. Cards: 18 LOB, 18 strikeouts and 7-for-27.

Michael Morse flies out with the bases loaded


Michael Morse is not in Beast Mode today. (Alex Brandon / AP)

The Nationals had their best opportunity of the game against Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter. After walking none through the first four innings, Carpenter allowed walks to Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche, who loaded the bases. Ryan Zimmerman’s single to left was sandwiched in between. Michael Morse ended the inning with a flyout to right field on a cutter, the third pitch of the at-bat.

Cardinals lead 4-0.

Beware the bottom of the Cards’ order


Rookie Pete Kozma blasted a three-run homer in the second. (Gary Cameron / Reuters)

With Roger Bernadina pinch hitting for Edwin Jackson, the starter’s day is done after five innings. The one pitch of the 68 he threw that will haunt him: a first-pitch fastball to Pete Kozma in the second, one Kozma drilled for a three-run homer.

Who is Pete Kozma? A 24-year-old fill-in middle infielder who had just 42 major league games under his belt before this postseason. But since filling in for the injured Rafael Furcal — the veteran who is gone for the season — Kozma has killed the Nationals, as has the bottom of the Cards’ order.

Kozma and Daniel Descalso are each 1 for 2 today, and they combined to go 3 for 7 with Descalso’s homer in St. Louis’s blowout win in Game 2.

But go back to the Nationals’ series at St. Louis before the end of the regular season, when the Cardinals took two of three. Descalso, hitting in the eight spot, went 3 for 8 in that series. Kozma was about the best player on the field, going 7 for 11 and driving in six runs.

This Cardinals lineup is deep. Very deep.

Edwin Jackson escapes jam in the fifth, day over

Just as it seemed the right-hander had found a groove, he was derailed. Pitcher Chris Carpenter crushed one of his pitches off the left field wall, missing as a home run by only a handful of feet. Jon Jay was the first out after a sacrifice bunt moved Carpenter to third base. Jackson looked in bad shape after walking Matt Holliday. But he got a ground out and struck out the dangerous Allen Craig. 

Roger Bernadina pinch hit for Jackson in the bottom of the fifth, ending his outing. His final line: 5 IP, 8 hits, 4 earned runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts and 68 pitches, 41 strikes.

Teddy wins again

After losing more than 500 consecutive Presidents races to start his Presidential racing career, giant racing Teddy started his first career winning streak by finishing first in the fourth-inning race.

For the second time this season, the presidents entertained the crowd with some Gangnam-Style dancing in the outfield before continuing the race. Their first Gangnam experience was one of the most-watched race clips in President race history. The dancing evidently distracted Abe and George and Tom on this playoff day, and Teddy took the prize.

Reporters indicated that there was much cheering, although the Nats continued to trail the Cardinals, 4-0.

Ian Desmond is 6 for 10 in the NLDS

The shortstop is the most consistent hitter in the Nationals lineup during the playoffs. With a fourth inning double off the right field wall, he notched his sixth hit in 10 at-bats in the NLDS. The Nationals have left five runners on base so far. Danny Espinosa and Kurt Suzuki flew out to end the inning.

Nats fans not feeling the love for Bob Costas

Bob Costas loves baseball. Apparently he also loves talking about Stephen Strasburg and bringing us all back to the “clown question” thing.

Nats fans do not appear to be loving Costas’ commentary on the MLB Network.

#FreeFP

Edwin Jackson’s 1-2-3 fourth

The right-hander struck out two batters in the inning, both on his wicked slider. He struggled with it in earlier innings but has found it again. He has retired five straight Cardinals but the Nationals trail 4-0.

Nationals still haven’t solved Chris Carpenter


(Alex Brandon / AP)

The top of the Nationals order made its second go-round against Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter and didn’t have any more success. Ryan Zimmerman smacked an opposite field single with two outs, but the three outs were hard-hit flyouts. Carpenter has given up only three hits so far, all of them singles. The Nationals still trail 4-0.

Edwin Jackson with best inning yet


(Robb Carr / Getty Images)

The right-hander allowed a leadoff single to Matt Holliday in the third inning but struck out Allen Craig and massaged a double play from Yadier Molina with a slider to end the inning.  He sits at 39 pitches, 25 of them strikes. The Nationals trail 4-0.

Jim Joyce blows a call at first, and so does Bob Costas

You make the call. (Image from @MichaelDavSmith)

Jim Joyce is the umpire who admitted to blowing a call at first base that cost former Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game in 2010.

Joyce is at first base again today and appeared to miss the call at first base on Danny Espinosa’s bunt. Joyce punched Espinosa out – emphatically – but replays showed he beat the throw to the bag.

On the MLB Network, Bob Costas immediately declared “the call was correct.”

But after seeing the replay, he backtracked.

“From the naked eye, from here, he looked like he was out,” Costas said. “But he’s safe!”

Here’s another angle courtesy of @amandarykoff

The broadcast team had their Jim Joyce lowlight video ready to roll. Now that’s doing your prep work.

Davey Johnson argued to no avail, and the Nats still trail 4-0.

Danny Espinosa out on close call at first, Nats fail to score

Ian Desmond led off the second inning with a single off of Chris Carpenter. (He’s now 5 for 9 in the series.) Danny Espinosa then laid down a sacrifice bunt towards third baseman David Freese. First base umpire Jim Joyce (remember that name?) called him out but, on replay, Espinosa touched first base just before. Manager Davey Johnson came out to argue the call. (Espinosa trudged off the field angrily at the call.)

Kurt Suzuki grounded out and and Edwin Jackson popped up to end the inning.

Kurt Suzuki is a hockey goalie behind the plate

The catcher has been exceptional behind the plate this season blocking balls, no time greater than in the playoffs. He saved Gio Gonzalez from further disaster on Sunday and Tuesday scooped up low pitches from Edwin Jackson. (There were likely a few others, too.)

“I’d rather them throw a ball in the dirt and have me block it than hang it over the plate,” Suzuki said after Tuesday’s team workout. “So I don’t mind that at all.”

Let’s look at the bullpens

With Edwin Jackson getting throttled in the second — he gave up four runs — and Chris Carpenter throwing 25 pitches in the first, it’s worth checking out who’s in the bullpen for both teams.

Everyone should be available for the Nats. In Game 2, when Jordan Zimmermann was chased after just three innings, Davey Johnson turned first to Craig Stammen. Davey Johnson said in his pregame address today that Stammen was suffering from some strep throat/cold-like symptoms the other day, the same thing that kind of got to Bryce Harper. Stammen didn’t tell anyone, and he gave up two walks, a homer and two runs in just a third of an inning.

Next came Christian Garcia. Johnson used lefties Michael Gonzalez and Sean Burnett (who got tattooed) out of their roles. If the Nats get a rally going here in the second, can they allow Jackson to hit, and would Johnson turn to Stammen? Or Tom Gorzelanny? Or Garcia, the rookie?

Worth nothing for the Cardinals: Manager Mike Matheny said this morning that Lance Lynn, who won 18 games for the Cardinals this year but is not in the postseason rotation, is not available today. That brings into serious question who the Cards would use if Carpenter gets knocked out early. They just added Shelby Miller to the roster to replace the injured Jaime Garcia. Coud they do that?

Here come the cries for Strasburg

It didn’t take long for Bob Costas and Jim Kaat to bring up the Stephen Strasburg “what ifs,” and with Edwin Jackson struggling mightily in the first two innings, Nats fans in the Twittersphere are feeling quite wistful.

Cardinals take 4-0 lead on Pete Kozma’s three-run homer

Edwin Jackson has been shaky already. He allowed a leadoff double to David Freese and then a single to Daniel Descalso. Then Pete Kozma, the Cardinals No. 8 hitter who had two home runs during the regular season, launched a three-run home to left field on the first pitch he saw from Jackson for a 4-0 lead.

Jackson allowed a single to pitcher Chris Carpenter but massaged a double play out of Jon Jay and a groundout from Carlos Beltran to end the inning. Jackson’s slider doesn’t seem to be on, nor his tempo in order.

Bryce Harper’s red contacts

Bryce Harper got the world talking about his appearance again Wednesday afternoon by wearing red contacts to combat the Sun Monster at Nats Park.

This is hardly a new thing in the world of sports; Sports Illustrated ran a lengthy story on the lenses seven years ago, which help reduce glare and block out blue light, according to players.

“You’re able to focus and see the spin and rotation of the ball better,” Brian Roberts told the magazine then. “But it freaks people out. You kind of look like Satan.”

The Times’s Amanda Comak reported that Harper tested out the contacts during batting practice on Wednesday before showing them off to a national TV audience during the first inning.

“Harper wasn’t sure if he’d use them during the game — when he came out to test them there were clouds in front of the sun so he couldn’t get the best read,” she wrote. “But it was interesting to see at least one player doing something somewhat out of the ordinary just in case the sun is bad at Nationals Park.”

(Images via @MichaelJenk, @xmasape and Guyism.)

Nationals squander chance against Chris Carpenter

Jayson Werth led off with a single and Ryan Zimmerman reached on an error by third baseman David Freese. With one out, Adam LaRoche grounded into a near-double play with a ball to second baseman Daniel Descalso, but LaRoche beat out the throw at first and the turn at second help. Michael Morse, with LaRoche at first and Werth at third, struck out swinging on a cutter.

Chris Carpenter, who returned from major injuries, is hitting 92 mph and mixing in cutters and curveballs. The Nationals still worked him for 25 pitches in the inning.

Frank Robinson’s first pitch


By Pablo Martinez Monsivais – AP.

Wearing No. 20, and to No. 20 behind the plate, Frank Robinson earned the biggest cheer of Wednesday’s pre-game introductions by throwing out the first pitch. Before the pitch he hugged Ryan Zimmerman; after the pitch he gave Ian Desmond (who wears his number) a tap on the chest.

The pitch, it was widely reported, was a strike.

(Images via the MLB Network and @dcborn61)

“There are no bad seats here”

The Post’s J. Freedom du Lac caught up with a pair of Nats fans enjoying the view from the last row of the upper deck.

Whitney Gurner and Jessica Lopez have two of the worst seats in the park: last row, upper deck, way, way down the left field line, near the light tower.

The Capitol almost looked closer than home plate. A raw autumn wind was whipping across their faces. A fence was brushing the backs of their heads.

They couldn’t have been happier.

“There are no bad seats here,” said Gurner, a 25-year-old restaurant manager who said she “ran around work waving my tickets” the day she scored them online.

“I fell in love with this team,” said Lopez, 23, who was taking the day off work at a nonprofit — with permission. “My boss is also here.”

Gurner had the afternoon off, too. Good thing, she said.  “It was either that or cough cough,” she said. 

Jayson Werth’s historic first hit

The right-fielder’s single in the top of the first inning off Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter is the first postseason hit in Washington by a D.C.-based major league team since Joe Cronin’s single in the bottom of the tenth of the Senators’ Game 5 of the 1933 World Series.

Edwin Jackson, Kurt Suzuki and the first inning

Now, on to baseball.


Edwin Jackson gave up a run in the first inning. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

Couple of things about Edwin Jackson that are probably worth pointing out. And read this fast, because the first inning is going to be of huge importance.

In 31 starts this year, Jackson had a 6.97 ERA in the first — an incredible number. He had a 9.00 ERA in the ninth, but he only pitched in that frame twice. So the first inning was, by far, Jackson’s worst. Next highest was 4.66 ERA in the fourth.

Last year, in the NLDS against Philadelphia, when Jackson pitched for St. Louis, he opened his start by allowing a double, a triple and a single that led to two runs. But then he shut down the Phillies for six innings and won the start that extended the Cardinals’ season.

One other thought: Jackson has a poor record with Kurt Suzuki behind the plate. After he was traded to the Nationals in August, Suzuki caught four of Jackson’s starts, and their ERA was 9.87. Stunning, considering how much credit Suzuki has received for being a key pickup. By contrast, Jesus Flores caught Jackson 20 times, and his ERA was 3.34.

Some stuff to chew on. Let’s play ball.

Edwin Jackson down early, Cardinals lead 1-0


Matt Holliday crosses home plate on Allen Craig’s RBI double. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

The right-hander’s first inning is usually his worst. He started off well, two quick outs. But single to left by Matt Holliday led to a double by Allen Craig, who plated him for an early 1-0 lead. Michael Morse took his time chasing down the ball in the left field corner.

First pitch for a major league playoff game in Washington since 1933

Edwin Jackson, a fastball outside to Jon Jay. 1:10 p.m. 64 degrees.

The crowd after introductions

Some fans and media members worried that, in typical D.C. fashion, Nats Park would have a lot of empties for the first pitch of a 1:07 start.

Judging on these photos by Sarah (above) and @dcuniverse (below), that worry appeared to be unnecessary.

Ross Detwiler vows to be more aggressive in Game 4


(Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Nationals left-handed starter Ross Detwiler understands the magnitude of his first-ever postseason start. When he climbs the mound at Nationals Park for Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, he could be staring down elimination or a series clincher. He will be facing a team that only two weeks ago bashed him around for seven runs, three earned, in only 2 1/3 innings.

As he spoke to reporters on the eve of his start, Detwiler, 26, was as comfortable and humorous as he often during the season. He joked that his last few starts of the season were an exercise of “what not do.” And, he has tried not to remember his loss to the Cardinals the final week of September, his last outing of the season. Instead, he vowed to be more aggressive.

“I’m just really going out there trying to throw strikes, trying to get ahead in the count,” he said. “You know, make the hitters hit my pitch instead of having to come after them 2‑1, 3‑1 like I was the whole time; limit the walks. I think I had five or six walks and I think that’s what really ended up hurting me.”

Read the full post on Nationals Journal here.

Early scene at Nationals Park

By 12:50 p.m., as player introductions were beginning, a large stream of fans were still entering Nationals Park. The stands were already filled with a sea of red shirt-clad fans. They cheered arguably the loudest was for Manager Davey Johnson, followed by Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Gio Gonzalez. When the four military jets flew over at 12:57 p.m, just after the national anthem ended, one couldn’t help but feel goosebumps.

Former manager Frank Robinson, a Hall of Famer, thew out the ceremonial first pitch, a slow strike to Ian Desmond, who changed his number to 20 this season in his honor. It was likely a big moment for Desmond.

Jimmy Rollins says Nats Park is a great atmosphere

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is in the studio for MLB Network’s coverage of Game 3.

The Phillies haven’t always been eager to dole out praise for their NL East rivals, but Rollins gave Washington’s growing fanbase a bit of credit just now, calling the atmosphere at Nats park “great.”

“They weren’t always there,” Rollins said of the Nats faithful. “But as soon as their team gave them a reason to come to the ballpark, they were there.”

And after hearing the ovation Frank Robinson got after his first pitch, Rollins said of the Nats fans: “They are off the chains!”

It’s a beautiful day for playoff baseball


(James Wagner / The Washington Post)

“Now, it’s for real.”

The Post’s Matt Zapotosky chatted up a pair of fans standing near the vendors outside Nats Park.

Floyd Willis, 60, of Alexandria, said he recalls going to the Senators last game at RFK stadium against the Yankees. When the team returned to Washington as the Nationals in 2005, he and his wife, Leora Motley, 57, bought season tickets. They’ve been hoping for a playoff run ever since.

“This is just great,” Willis said, his wife scrambling after a T-shirt vendor on the Half Street path to the ballpark. “This is what you expect.”

 Well, maybe not “expect.” Willis said he saw the “makings of a good team” in the Nationals over the years, but he never expected playoff baseball to come to the city so soon. From his perspective, the Nats seemed to go backward since their average start under Frank Robinson that first year back.

“Now, it’s for real,” Willis said. “It’s good for the whole area. It brings people together.”

Willis and Motley, who are both retired, said they have bought tickets through the National League Championship Series and hope to add some for the World Series.

“I think their chances are good,” Motley said. “And I really, really want Edwin (Jackson) to win this.”

‘This is the Main Event’

But but but, I thought the President’s Race was the Main Event.No?

Patti Witte from Alexandria showed this sign to Sarah, inspired by people who think the Main Event is a mid-inning warning track gimmick.

This is personal for Edwin Jackson


(Susan Walsh / AP)

The first major league postseason game in Washington since the 1933 World Series doubles as the Nationals’ most important game since baseball returned. If the Nationals lose today, they will put their season in the hands of Ross Detwiler, the starter who effectively replaced Stephen Strasburg, and the result would unleash all that entails. If they win, they get two cracks at the Cardinals, at home, to advance to NLCS.

The stakes are high, and they will hand the ball to Edwin Jackson, the $11 million free agent the Nationals signed, in part, for his postseason experience. He will face the team with which he won the 2011 World Series. “It’s personal for him,” one Nationals official said pregame, in order to indicate his confidence in Jackson. They think he has the stuff, and the demeanor, to pitch big today.

“If E.J. gives up a run, he’ll come in and say, ‘Hey, that’s all they get,’ ” Detwiler said. “He’ll pump up our hitters and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to go throw up some zeros.’ ”

Read the full post on Nationals Journal here.

Cueto out for NLCS

The Nats might not want to look past the Cardinals to potential NLCS opponents, but fans sure can. And there was some good news on that account Wednesday morning.

From the AP: “The Reds dropped injured ace Johnny Cueto from their division series roster Wednesday, replacing him with right-hander Mike Leake a few hours before Game 4 against the San Francisco Giants.”

Of course, by making this move — much like the Cardinals did with Jaime Garcia — the Reds sacrificed the 19-game winner for the next round, should they advance past the Giants. That could become a huge storyline in the next round.

“It’s tough taking your potential Cy Young guy out of your rotation,” general manager Walt Jocketty said, again via the AP. Read more here.

Very superstitious?

Superstitions are everywhere in baseball. Here are a few from the Nats clubhouse.

What are your game day superstitions?

Now that’s Natitude

Across the city, folks are fired up for today’s game. From the suits on the hill to the kids in the classroom to the recently unemployed.

Here’s proof from commenter susan.h.lanier.

“Right about now is when I am glad I lost my job 1.5 weeks ago. Just in time……..NATS!”

Way to turn a negative into a positive, Susan. That’s some serious Natitude!

Your Game 3 lineups


Edwin Jackson is the only Nationals starter with playoff experience. (Greg Fiume / Getty Images)

We’re 50 minutes away from the first postseason pitch in Washington since 1933.

Two pitchers who led the Cardinals from the wild card to a World Series title last season go head-to-head as both teams look to take a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five series.

Here are your lineups.

Nationals

1. Jayson Werth, RF

2. Bryce Harper, CF

3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

4. Adam LaRoche, 1B

5. Michael Morse, LF

6. Ian Desmond, SS

7. Danny Espinosa, 2B

8. Kurt Suzuki, C

9. Edwin Jackson, SP

Cardinals 

1. Jon Jay, CF

2. Carlos Beltran, RF

3. Matt Holliday, LF

4. Allen Craig, 1B

5. Yadier Molina, C

6. David Freese, 3B

7. Daniel Descalso, 2B

8. Pete Kozma, SS

9. Chris Carpenter, SP

The crowd at the Navy Yard station

Via WaPo colleague Cathy Taylor, this is what the crowd looks like exiting trains at the Navy Yard Metro station.

And via Comcast SportsNet’s Kellie Cowan, below is the gridlock attempting to exit the station itself.

Crash on M and Half streets SE

It was bound to happen sooner or later. If you’re driving to Nats Park, be aware of the crash just north of the ballpark.

Mark Berman reported on the Dr. Gridlock blog at 12:07 p.m.:

“And we have our first stadium-adjacent crash: An accident on Half Street at M Street SE is going to slow traffic on eastbound M Street, according to D.C. police. Expect this to exacerbate problems heading to the ballpark.”

Check back for more updates here.

New t-shirts in team store

Via Sarah Kogod, a couple of the newer offerings in the Nats team store.

The line to meet Teddy

Here’s the line to meet Teddy an hour before Wednesday’s playoff home opener.

The line at Shake Shack

Via Sarah Kogod, here’s the line at Shake Shack well more than an hour before first pitch.

The LaRoche and Burnett kids

Via Sarah Kogod, here are the LaRoche and Burnett kids, getting ready for Game 1 in D.C.

Giant JFK head at Nats Park

Sarah sends along this image of a giant JFK fella running around Nats Park on Wednesday morning. You won’t see that in St. Louis, huh?

Michael Morse and A-ha


By Jeff Roberson – AP.

(There will be a bunch of non-baseball stuff until the game starts. Bear with us.)

By now you certainly have read Chris Richards’s definitive take on the Michael Morse “Take On Me” sing-along phenomenon, which is probably the single greatest home-grown tradition inside Nats Park. Here’s one key passage.

“That’s fantastic!” says A-ha guitarist-keyboardist Magne Furuholmen in an e-mail sent from his home in Oslo. “This song has done the rounds, but I never heard of it engaging the audience in this way.” Furuholmen adds that he’s ready to switch his allegiance from the Red Sox to the Nats.

Anyhow, after D.C. media members and Nats fans started obsessively tweeting about this story late on Tuesday night while watching Sons of Anarchy, a funny thing happened. Michael Morse and the Norwegian ’80s pop stars became friends. Online friends, but still.

“So great,” Morse wrote, when he was sent a link to the story.

“You guys are awesome,” he then wrote to A-ha.

“Welcome new followers and #Nats fans!” the band’s official Twitter feed later wrote, offering specific thanks to Morse and Richards and adding “get ready to sing” and “in a day or twoooooo” hashtags.

“Hey #Nats fans! Anyone know where we can find/share the clips from ABC News & Fox News this morning about a-ha?” the band later asked.

Since this all started, the band’s Twitter feed has started following The Post, Post Sports, Morse, the Nats, Jummy Olabanji, Steve Chenevey, Chris Richards and me.

If a twitter exchange between Michael Morse and A-ha — and the band attempting to view local news clips about its connection to a quirky outfielder — isn’t the perfect way to get ready for D.C.’s first home playoff game in 79 years, I don’t know what is.

Here, via the Sports Nexus, are Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, singing along.

 

Welcome to the Game 3 discussion

You couldn’t ask for a better day for playoff baseball to return to D.C., and The Post’s staff will update you here on everything from traffic issues to pitching changes.

The comment thread is right below this for you to discuss anything about today that you’d like to. And, in addition to that, you can follow Game 3 through the eyes of our reporters (in today’s case Dan Steinberg, Barry Svrluga, James Wagner, Matt Brooks and Sarah Kogod and our friends on the local staff, which will include transportation updates from Dr. Gridlock. For complete traffic and transportation updates, there is also a Dr. Gridlock live blog) Once the game starts, you’ll also be able to stay on top of each play through the stats above. Selecting the box score tab on the left will get you the live box, and by selecting the summary tab on the left you can see the games’ full play-by-play and scoring summary.

Each time a reporter files an update, the list just below the “NL Division Series Game 3: Nationals at Cardinals” headline will flash yellow and the latest headline will appear at the top of the list. Also, a small update box will appear in the right corner of your screen. You can read that new entry by selecting the headline for the new entry in either place. 
(Note: In some older browsers you might not get the yellow flash, so you might want to refresh here and there to see if anything new has been posted.)

Enjoy the game!

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Katie Carrera · October 10, 2012

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