ST. LOUIS — Three hits and an excruciating loss one day, double-digit runs and a laugher the next. The St. Louis Cardinals have been that type of team all season.
The defending World Series champions tied their NL Division Series with Washington at one game apiece by doing what they do best – forgetting about what happened the day before and concentrating on the game at hand. They lost the Division Series and NLCS openers last year, and look how that turned out.
Carlos Beltran hit the last two of the Cardinals’ four homers and St. Louis chased an ineffective Jordan Zimmermann early in a 12-4 rout of the Nationals on Monday.
“We know this offense has the potential to do this,” Cardinals rookie manager Mike Matheny said. “It was nice to see this, and hopefully it becomes contagious and the guys just keep going.”
Daniel Descalso and Allen Craig also went deep to help the Cardinals build a big lead that compensated for a two-inning start from an ailing Jaime Garcia. Craig hit his fifth career postseason homer and scored three times.
“If we get things going, we feel like we can carry the team,” Craig said. “As you saw tonight, we put a lot of good swings on the ball and really drove the ball. It was a lot of fun.”
Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche hit consecutive homers in the fifth for the Nationals, who head home for the remainder of the best-of-five series.
Garcia was taken out with a shoulder injury and sent for an MRI exam. The left-hander missed two months this season with shoulder fatigue.
“It just wasn’t right the whole time. I had to come out of the game,” Garcia said. “I don’t know how it happened, I don’t know when it happened.
“I’m just hoping it’s not too bad, but at the same time you’ve just got to wait and see how it goes.”
Game 3 is Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park, the first postseason contest in the nation’s capital since the original Senators played the New York Giants in the 1933 World Series. Edwin Jackson starts for Washington against longtime Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, who made only three starts during the regular season because of injury.
“Today, for us, was a must-win game,” Beltran said.
The Cardinals seem to live for those. They lost the Division Series and NLCS openers last fall, then finished strong in the World Series after spotting Texas a 3-2 lead.
“We knew how big this game was for us,” center fielder Jon Jay said. “We’ve seen it all year – when we are able to do that, we are pretty dangerous.”
After the Nationals rallied late to win the opener, 3-2, there were no lineup changes in Game 2 – just clutch hitting from players accustomed to October pressure.
Beltran homered twice in the postseason for the third time in his career, connecting in the sixth off Mike Gonzalez and eighth off Sean Burnett. Jay had two hits and three RBI, plus an outstanding catch at the center-field wall to deprive Danny Espinosa of extra bases in the sixth.
“One of the best catches I’ve seen. I think it’s his best catch of the year,” Matheny said. “He barely looked up as he was hitting the wall. Very impressive.”
Nationals rookie Bryce Harper went 1 for 5 and struck out four times. He also was thrown out at third base on an ill-advised attempt.