“Don’t jump off a bridge,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “We’ve won two in a row before.”
Edwin Jackson’s rocky start, the Nationals’ sputtering offense and Chris Carpenter’s big-game chops pushed the Nationals to the brink, down 2-1 in the series and fighting an opponent that has dominated them over the past two weeks. Since the final weekend of the regular season, the Cardinals have beaten the Nationals four times in six games while outscoring them, 48-19.
The Nationals still maintained their resolve. Their clubhouse sat silent for five minutes, the TVs turned off, the room empty except for a pack of reporters. Right fielder Jayson Werth walked across the room, sat in his chair, cleared his throat and told the collection of cameras and notebooks: “We’ve been a really good team all year. We’ve got one game to play tomorrow — one game to win.”
“We are not out of this by a long shot,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “Keep us in the ballgame tomorrow, get a few key hits, we’re right back in it. Shoot, I’ve had my back to worse walls than this.”
Jackson allowed four runs in his first two innings, the fatal blow a three-run home run by rookie shortstop Pete Kozma, the Cardinals’ No. 8 hitter. Carpenter made only his fourth start this year because of a nerve issue in his neck, and he shut down the Nationals by dodging trouble.
The Nationals gave their crowd rallies to cheer, and then turned them into desperate deflation. They pushed runners to either second or third base in five of the first six innings. They went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 men on base. If not for shortstop Ian Desmond’s 3-for-4 performance, the series would seem even more lopsided than it already is.
“They’ve got some momentum, no question,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “They’re feeling really good right now, all aspects of their game. They’ve got that going for them. But today means nothing when we come out tomorrow.”
The latest drubbing left the Nationals’ season in the hands of Ross Detwiler
, the 26-year-old left-hander who grew up rooting for the Cardinals and, essentially, replaced Stephen Strasburg in the postseason rotation. Detwiler, who allowed the Cardinals seven runs in 21
3 innings in his final regular season start, will oppose Kyle Lohse, the right-handed ace who went 16-3 this season.