Results tagged ‘ St. Louis Cardinals ’

Your Guide To NLDS Game 3

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The 2012 Postseason lands in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. We’re here to prepare you as best we can for Game 3 of the National League Division Series, with first pitch at 1:07 p.m. local time at Nationals Park.

Remember, while Wednesday is Game 3 of the NLDS, it is Postseason Home Game 1 for those of us here in D.C. Therefore your ticket should look like this:

If you don’t already have tickets to the game, there will be a very limited amount of standing room only tickets available beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, ONLY at the Nationals Park Box Office. 

Make sure you wear your Nationals red to the ballpark! While you’re at it, post a photo of you, your business or your school Igniting Your October #NATITUDE and post it to Twitter for a chance to win 2013 Nationals tickets and a Postseason Prize Pack!

All gates will open at 10:30 a.m., 2.5 hours before first pitch. There will be 40,000+ postseason giveaway items for every game of the NLDS. Giveaways will be available at all gates, so feel free to enter through any park entrance.

Face-painting, balloon art, caricatures, and more will be available at the Family Fun Area near the Center Field Gate once gates are open until the start of the game. Plus, live music will take place at the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk once gates are open until the start of the game.

And, of course, the game itself features Edwin Jackson and the Nationals taking on Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals with the best-of-five series tied at a game apiece. More on all that right here.

While you’re at the game, don’t forget to stop behind Section 113, where we’ll have unique memorabilia from the Nationals first-ever postseason games last weekend in St. Louis.

Series Information:

Game 4: Thursday, 4:07 p.m. (moves to 5:07 p.m. if Detroit beats Oakland Tuesday night)

Game 5 (if necessary): Friday, 8:37 p.m.

If you have any other questions that are not answered on this post or on this link, feel free to ask them in the space below and we’ll do our best to answer as quickly as possible.

Some Motivation

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Around 1:05 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, after the Nationals take the field for their first home playoff game, the first in the franchise’s annals since the Montreal Expos in 1981, and the first in Washington’s Major League history since 1933, one song will blare out from the ballpark’s speakers, the chosen song of the home nine’s starting pitcher. After everything the Washington fan base has abided to get to this momentous day – from decades of postseason absence, to franchises twice leaving the District, to finally, a winning team being built from scratch to deliver this day – the song is appropriately entitled: “Waiting.”

You know the world is waiting…

Waiting on 103

The collected, experienced Edwin Jackson leads the Nationals into Game 3 of the NLDS.

For the Nationals fan base, it is waiting on Game 3. Their designated starter, the man who will take the hill with this music pumping behind him, will be looking to reestablish the team’s dominance at home, facing off in what has become a best-of-three series in D.C. between the upstart Nationals and the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, following a successful split of the first two games on the road. Now Washington will look to Edwin Jackson, who was a key part of that championship team against whom he will pitch on Wednesday, to deliver as he has done all year long.

We need some motivation,

So won’t you come motivate me?

When the Nationals made the surprise free agent signing of the offseason, inking Jackson to a one-year deal to bolster their starting rotation, many were caught off-guard. An already full rotation was now actually overflowing, prompting the eventual decision to start John Lannan at Triple-A to begin the season. And while it could be argued that Jackson was brought in to do what he has already done – post a double-digit win total and rack up nearly 200 innings in the middle of the rotation – he was really signed by EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo with Wednesday’s Game 3 in mind.

“You have to treat every inning like it’s the ninth inning,” stressed Jackson at his press conference Tuesday of the added pressure of starting in the postseason.

Jackson has been in this position before, pitching for the other side last season.

On a team full of rookies and other young players and a rotation with no postseason experience of any kind, Jackson is the elder statesman, the veteran, the man who has been to the top of the mountain before. He has twice pitched in the postseason, twice in the World Series, for two different teams in two different leagues. He has taken on the Red Sox and the Phillies, the Brewers and the Rangers, and made three starts as a part of that 2011 St. Louis team that won it all. It is only fitting that the same team, a year later, now stands in the Nationals way as they attempt to advance to the NLCS.

Thanks to that experience, Jackson is able to keep a clear mind about the task in front of him, to keep everything in perspective.

“No one has to be a hero,” he explained. “We just need to go out and play the game we know how to play.”

Last year, after the Cardinals had lost Game 3 of the NLDS to the Phillies and found themselves down, two games to one in the best-of-five format, they handed the ball to Jackson with their season on the line. The strong righty allowed two runs in the first inning, but shut down the potent Philadelphia offense (one that had scored 11 runs in the first game of the series) the rest of the way en route to a 5-3 victory. St. Louis went on to win Game 5, and of course, the rest is history.

I done told y’all, and told y’all, and told y’all again

Play the game, play the game, play the game yeah to win

There will also be a measure of revenge available for Jackson, who struggled through his toughest start of the year in St. Louis earlier this month. However, lest Cardinals fans jump to quickly to the conclusion that they will find the same kind of success against Jackson here in Washington, they need only look back at Jackson’s start on August 30, in which he allowed a single unearned run on just four hits, striking out 10 over 8.0 masterful innings in an 8-1 Nationals victory over St. Louis. That contest was part of a four-game set in which Washington pummeled the Cardinals to the tune of a 31-14 score over the series, winning three times.

I ain’t lose, I don’t lose, I ain’t lose, never lost

Always on, keepin’ on, always on, never off

With emotions likely to be running high in the first Major League Postseason game in D.C. in 79 years, it’s hard to think of anyone better than the calm, collected Jackson taking the hill for the Nationals.

What to Watch For: NLDS Game 2

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Washington Nationals (1-0) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (0-1)

RHP Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 2.94) vs. LHP Jaime Garcia (7-7, 3.92)

Trailing 2-1 into the top of the eighth inning, the Nationals got a two-out, two-strike, two-run pinch-single from Tyler Moore to flip the script and steal a Game 1 victory in St. Louis. Washington will send right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to the hill this afternoon in Game 2 against Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

From Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche on the importance of Sunday’s Game 1 win:

“Game 1 in a short series like this is huge. I think more than anything because now for the Cardinals, since we won Game 1, this is kind of a must-win.”

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Zimmermann RHP

IT HAS BEEN A WHILE

Entering the 2012 postseason, a big league club from Washington last won a postseason game on October 5, 1933 (79 years ago), when the AL Nationals topped the New York Giants, 4-0, at Griffith Stadium and southpaw Earl Whitehill tossed a five-hitter. Davey Johnson’s last postseason win came as the Orioles doubled up the Indians, 4-2, in Game 5 on October 13, 1997 (15 years ago).

WERTH NOTING

Jayson Werth’s 13 career home runs in 45 career postseason contests are tied for fifth among active players with Chipper Jones (13 in 93 games) and Alex Rodriguez (13 in 68 games). Only Derek Jeter (20 home runs, 153 games), Albert Pujols (18 in 74 games), Jim Thome (17 in 68 games) and Nelson Cruz (14 in 34 games) have more. In fact, in 44 career postseason games, Werth has more homers than the following October legends: Yogi Berra (12 home runs in 75 games), David Ortiz (12 in 75 games), Duke Snider (11 in 36 games), Johnny Bench (10 in 45 games), Frank Robinson (10 in 35 games), Chase Utley (10 in 46 games) and Barry Bonds (nine in 48 games).

D.C.’S POSTSEASON LEDGER

It’s well known that the Nation’s Capital has one MLB World Championship (‘24) on its resume. Washington, D.C. owns an all-time record of 9-11 in the postseason.

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Another Opening Day

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Stop us if this sounds familiar.

The Washington Nationals, trailing a tight, low-scoring game by one run in the top of the eighth inning, need a clutch hit late. This is, after all, their first time in such a position, with newfound expectations heaped on their collective backs, the attention of the sport and the nation at large turned to them for the first time in their young history. They need to find a way, through a raucous road crowd in one of baseball’s historic cities, to shut out the noise, the emotion, and find a way to win. Washington rides a three-hit day from Ian Desmond and a clutch hit late off the bench to a one-run road victory. It is Opening Day, April 5 in Chicago, and the Nationals have just beaten the Cubs to start the season.

Tyler Moore silenced the Game 1 crowd of more than 47,000 in St. Louis.

Six months and two days later, Washington began its “second season,” the postseason, in remarkably similar fashion. The Nationals use another three-hit game from Desmond and a two-out, two-strike, two-run pinch-single – the very definition of clutch – from rookie Tyler Moore to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One of the National League Division Series. Of course, it was Chad Tracy who delivered the big blow on Opening Day, with his ninth-inning double. On Sunday afternoon, Tracy again played a role, despite never even crossing the lines onto the field of play. His announcement as the pinch-hitter for Ryan Mattheus (more on him later) in the top of the eighth prompted Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny to pull setup man Mitchell Boggs in favor of his lone lefty reliever, Mark Rzepczynski. Davey Johnson countered by pinch-hitting Moore, and the chess game continued. Matheny opted against a second pitching change, leaving right-handed closer Jason Motte in the ‘pen. Moore delivered. Checkmate.

Asked if it was the biggest hit in his career, Moore, the fresh-faced 25 year-old tucked into his stock, grey postseason sweatshirt, kept it simple.

“Uh, yeah,” he laughed.

However, none of those events would have transpired if not for the tremendous, history-making postseason debut of Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus. Already leading 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, St. Louis had loaded the bases with nobody out on an error, a single and a walk against Craig Stammen, prompting Johnson to go to his ground ball specialist. Even he couldn’t have imagined things would work out quite so well.

In a game in which the Cardinals seemed to constantly be on the verge of breaking out, Mattheus delivered in the biggest spot. For starters, he got cleanup man Allen Craig – a .400 hitter (50-for-125) with 74 RBI with RISP during the regular season – to hit the first pitch on the ground to shortstop, Desmond throwing home for the first out of the inning, the bases remaining loaded. Then, on the very next pitch, he induced an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play off the bat of 2012 All-Star Yadier Molina, becoming the first pitcher in the history of postseason play to record all three outs in an inning on just two pitches.

Heroes Moore (left) and Desmond enjoy the spoils of victory at the post-game press conference.

“I sold out to the ground ball,” he said with a smile after the nail-biting victory. “I’ve done it all year, that’s been my MO to get ground balls. Look at my numbers – I don’t punch very many guys out. So I’m not going to go in there and try to strike out the side.”

To call Mattheus an unknown factor would be an understatement. As the official scorer called out the afternoon’s final totals over the public address system in the press box, he mispronounced the reliever’s name, calling him “Math-A-us” rather than “Matthews,” though the right-hander surely could care less. He had just, after all, recorded the three biggest out of his career.

“Absolutely, no question about it,” Mattheus agreed when asked if Sunday’s performance topped his career highlights. “I don’t think we care if we stole it. Any one we can get is a win, no matter how we get it.”

Desmond had a different view of the outcome.

“I don’t think we stole it,” he said. “I think we earned it.”

Indeed, the Nationals earned it through a mix of quality pitching from the whole staff, combined with a couple of big hits in key spots. As anyone who has followed the team this year knows, that should come as no surprise.

“That’s really been the formula,” explained Desmond. “Just some timely hitting and some really, really good pitching.”

On that much, he and Mattheus agreed.

“I think that’s how this team’s been the whole year,” said Mattheus, reflecting back to Opening Day. “Some nights we pitch, some nights we hit. We try not to make too much of these games. Hopefully we can treat them like games in April. That was the most exciting day in my career so far, Opening Day, but this has to trump that.”

What To Watch For: NLDS Game 1

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Washington Nationals (98-64) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (88-74)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94)

The Washington Nationals begin the franchise’s first-ever Postseason in the home of the defending 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards knocked off the Atlanta Braves, 6-3 on Friday night, in the one-game Wild Card Playoff to reach the National League Division Series.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

From Nationals Manager Davey Johnson on leading his fourth different team to the Postseason:

“It’s not my first rodeo… We know who we are, we know what we do well.”

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Gonzalez LHP

ARMS RACE

Washington features the staff with the lowest ERA in the National League at 3.33, helping lead to a league-best 98 wins. Nationals pitchers also ranked third in the league with 1325 strikeouts. St. Louis, meanwhile, posted the league’s sixth best mark as a staff (3.71), including 10 shutouts. Gio Gonzalez’s only start against the Cardinals his season resulted in his first career shutout, a five-hit masterpiece in D.C. on August 31. St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright, meanwhile, had one great start and one rough one against the Nationals, going 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA (7 ER/8.2 IP).

BATTER UP

The Cardinals featured the second-highest scoring offense and second-highest batting average in the National League. However, they were out-homered by the Nationals, 194-159, and Washington actually posted better second-half numbers across the board.

MANAGING EXPECATIONS

This matchup features Major League Baseball’s oldest (69 year-old Davey Johnson) and youngest (42 year-old Mike Matheny) managers, marking the largest age difference between skippers in Postseason history.

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Do You Know Your Enemy?

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There was much speculation as to who the Nationals would be better off facing in the National League Division Series heading into last night’s Cardinals-Braves Wild Card game. With the dust now settled and the team in St. Louis, we’re here to provide an objective analysis of the three National League teams that Washington has the possibility of encountering this postseason and how well the Nats match up against each. First, though, let’s take a look at what the Nationals have working in their favor, regardless of their opponent.

SERIES BUSINESS

For the Nationals to be successful in the postseason, they will need to stick to the same approach they have had all season long: win the series. That has been the mantra since day one, and while a five or seven-game series differs from a two, three, or four-gamer, the principle remains the same. In that vein, the Nationals finished the 2012 regular season with a 32-12-8 series record. In other words, they won 32 of their 52 series outright (61.5%), and earned at least a split in 40 of them (76.9%). Washington was swept only four times all season long, while returning the favor on nine occasions, including three-game sets at Atlanta in late May and at home against San Francisco in early July.

SHOW ON THE ROAD

While Washington’s 50-31 home record was tied for the top mark in the National League, it is their nearly equal 48-33 road mark that stands out. Not only is that the best away tally in all of baseball, but it includes 2-1 records in both Cincinnati and San Francisco and a 5-4 mark in Atlanta. The Nats ability to win away from D.C. will be a crucial factor in how far their October ride will take them.

OPPONENTS

St. Louis Cardinals

88-74 overall, 11.0 GB in NL Central (Second Wild Card)

Nationals record vs. St. Louis in 2012: 4-3

World Champions until they are eliminated, the Cardinals are a dangerous opponent that features the highest scoring offense of any postseason club in the National League. Combined with their veteran rotation and playoff experience, the Cards will not be an easy out, but it’s hard to say how Washington will match up, with both teams winning their home series convincingly during the regular season. The good news: the Cardinals rotation (Garcia: 0-1, 10.13; Lohse: 0-0, 6.94; Lynn: 1-1, 9.82; Wainwright: 1-1, 7.27) has not fared well against the Nats bats. We’ll have more on the Cardinals in a full NLDS preview tomorrow.

Cincinnati Reds

97-65 overall, NL Central Champions

Nationals record vs. Cincinnati in 2012: 5-2

Reds fans will point out that all of the seven matchups between these two teams occurred very early in the season, when ace Johnny Cueto was on the Disabled List. However, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman both missed the second series, while Bryce Harper was still in Syracuse for the first matchup and Michael Morse was absent for both. It could be very reasonably argued that the Nationals team the Reds could face in October is significantly better offensively (perhaps defensively as well, with Zimmerman and Harper) than the one that took five-of-seven from Cincinnati in April and May.

San Francisco Giants

94-68 overall, NL West Champions

Nationals record vs. San Francisco in 2012: 5-1

The Giants have improved offensively down the stretch, despite the loss of Melky Cabrera, but will rely on their formidable starting rotation to try to replicate their 2010 World Series run. However, the Nationals have fared particularly well against the San Francisco starters as well, with Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong’s worst individual starts of the year ALL coming against the Nats. In fact, add in top starter Matt Cain and the quartet that went a combined 55-36 with a 3.42 ERA (294 ER/772.2 IP) against the rest of baseball managed just a 1-4 record with an 8.80 ERA (30 ER/30.2 IP) against Washington this year.

See You In Knoxville

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This morning, Jeffrey Hester and his son Alan jumped in their car to begin a journey of over 400 miles, from their home in Winchester, VA to Knoxville, TN. They are going as baseball fans, but not going to see the Tennessee Smokies, the Double-A affiliates of the Chicago Cubs, whose season ended a month ago. Hardly a baseball hotbed this time of year, Knoxville is simply the logical stopping point in a larger journey, the yield sign at the fork in the road between St. Louis and Atlanta, the two possible destinations where their beloved Washington Nationals will play their first-ever playoff game, set to take place this Sunday.

Nationals season ticket holder Jeffrey Hester at Fenway Park in June.

“I looked at the map and Knoxville seemed to be a good halfway point,” said Hester over the phone on Thursday, a day after he watched the Nats wrap up the best record in baseball in person at Nationals Park.

Originally an Orioles fan, Hester gave up his old fandom in the late ‘90s, only to pick it up once again when the Nationals moved to the Nation’s Capital in ’05. A season ticket holder ever since, he has found his baseball spark reignited this year from a fitting source.

“They broke my heart when they fired Davey Johnson,” recalled Hester of the Orioles and their former skipper parting ways. “It’s kind of funny how things come around.”

Hester’s son Alan took the week off work to join dad on the trip.

Now Hester and his son are all in on the Nats, and are prepared for both contingencies. Should the Braves knock off the defending World Series Champions at home, the Hesters will have just over 200 more miles left ahead of them to get to Turner Field for Game 1 of the NLDS. Should the Cardinals finally solve Kris Medlen and extend their season, it will mean another nearly 500-mile trek to the Gateway to the West.

“My son and I, we don’t want to do the trip in one day, especially if it’s St. Louis,” explained Hester of the journey, which could end up being over 1,800 miles round trip.

Either way, they plan to be back in D.C. in time for Game 3 on Wednesday and each of the eight possible postseason home games. The elder Hester estimates he has attended between 25-30 games at Nationals Park this season, but this won’t be the first time he has seen the Nationals away from the District, as he was able to catch the Sunday finale of the Nats sweep at Fenway Park in June. In Boston for a friend’s wedding on Saturday, it was the only logical way for a die-hard fan to complete the weekend. Now, their journey will take them to eastern Tennessee as they await the Nationals next opponent – and their weekend destination – to be determined.

What to Watch For: 9/30

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Washington Nationals (96-62) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (85-73)

LHP Ross Detwiler (10-7, 3.28) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (17-7, 3.69)

With their extra-inning victory Saturday night, the Nationals inched within a single win or Atlanta loss of clinching the National League East. They look to do so – and to win the series against the Cardinals – this afternoon with St. Louis native Ross Detwiler on the hill, pitching in his hometown as a Major Leaguer for the first time.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

From catcher Kurt Suzuki, on his two-out, two-run, game-winning hit in the 10th inning following an intentional walk to Danny Espinosa:

“You want to be in those situations…you want to go up there and make them pay.”

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Detwiler LHP

THE NEXT MAGIC MOMENT

Having clinched a spot in MLB’s postseason, the Nationals now turn their attention to winning the NL East…Washington’s magic number to clinch the NL East is ONE game.

OCTOBER BASEBALL

The Nationals – via a 4-1 home win over Los Angeles on September 20 – have assured The Nation’s Capital of its first postseason October baseball since the 1933 AL Nationals lost a five-game World Series to the Giants. Those AL Nationals also won AL pennants in 1924 (World Champions) and ‘25. This mark’s the second post-season trip for the franchise, as Montreal lost to the Dodgers in the five-game ‘81 NLCS.

96 CURLY W’s IN THE BOOKS

With four games remaining, Washington has already established a franchise best with 96 wins and needs three wins to match the best mark by a D.C.-based team (‘33 Senators). The Nationals are the first ballclub from the Nation’s Capital to eclipse the 90-win plateau in 79 years or since the pennant-winning 99-win ‘33 AL Nationals. This is the ninth 90-win campaign posted by a D.C. baseball team…from 1913-33, the AL Nationals posted eight 90-win seasons: 1933 (99 wins), 1925 (96), 1930 (94), 1932 (93), 1931 (92), 1924 (92), 1912 (91), 1913 (90).

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Two Swings, One Number

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Baseball is a sport of routines, of countless situations played over and over again. It is a game that, more often than not, rewards those teams that are able to consistently take advantage of the opportunities afforded them to score runs and win games. However, one of the greatest parts about baseball is the likelihood of seeing something you’ve never seen before in each and every game. There are so many different ways for any given situation to unfold that no two games would ever play out exactly alike, even if – by some miracle – the box scores looked identical.

This anachronism played true to form on Saturday night, when the Nationals needed just two swings to take control of their fate, beating the host Cardinals in 10 innings to lower their NL East magic number to one. The first swing happened with no bat and no ball, and was a first for everyone in the ballpark, no matter how much baseball their eyes had seen. Michael Morse stepped into the box with the bases loaded and drove a ball the other way, clearing the right-field wall before caroming off the electronic billboard behind it and back into play. Initially ruled a single on the field, confusion reigned among the Nationals runners on the base paths, with Morse eventually being tagged out sliding back into first. Following a review, the umpires determined correctly that the ball had in fact cleared the wall for a grand slam.

Home runs have been overturned before in baseball since the advent of replay, but none have played out quite the way this one did. Morse, who had stayed at first base during the review, began running the bases when home plate umpire Cory Blaser gave the home run signal. However, he was ordered to go back to the base where he started when the play began. Initially he circled back around second to first, but was eventually sent back to home plate, with Bryce Harper – who began the play at third base and had been in the dugout for several minutes after scoring – summoned to return to the field as well. Upon arriving back at the batter’s box, Morse, not knowing what to do, took a phantom swing, then went into his home run trot, even tossing in his trademark helmet slap as he rounded the bases. Fittingly, a full moon rose from behind the outfield bleachers the next inning, looming over the spot where the ball had left the yard.

The Nationals would not score again until the 10th inning, after the Cardinals had come back to tie the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth. This time, they did so on a play that baseball lifers have seen time and time again, one that anyone who has been following the Nats closely down the stretch over the past few weeks could see coming a mile away. Adam LaRoche, who led the inning off with a single, stood at second base with two outs following a Roger Bernadina sacrifice bunt and an Ian Desmond fly out. With Danny Espinosa at the plate, Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny elected to intentionally walk Espinosa, rather than let his reliever, Fernando Salas, face him.

Kurt Suzuki’s clutch double brought the Nationals to the brink of history.

In theory, the move was a shrewd one. Espinosa had found success against Salas in the past. Perhaps he remembered Espinosa’s triple off Salas on April 20 last season. He almost certainly had images of Espinosa’s three-run, walk-off home run that Salas served up in Washington a couple months after that. Perhaps it was as simple as wanting a righty-righty matchup instead of letting a left-handed batter (or switch-hitter, batting left) beat him. But Kurt Suzuki has not been just any right-handed hitter of late.

Since August 25, the Nationals trade acquisition has batted .322 (29-for-90) with a .522 slugging percentage and 20 RBI in just 27 games. He has supported the “Kurt Klutch” nickname he earned at Cal State Fullerton, where his two-out, RBI-single in the bottom of the seventh inning led the Titans to a 3-2 victory and College World Series title in 2004.

While the intentional walk can serve many purposes in the game, a two-out intentional walk means only one thing from the opposing manager: “I’ll take my chances against you.” Better not to do so facing a guy with a “Klutch” nickname. Suzuki ripped a two-run double to the base of the fence in left-center, providing the decisive blow.

The culmination of the two swings have left the Nationals on the brink of their first-ever National League East title which they could wrap up as soon as today. They need a single win (or Atlanta loss) to make it official here, fittingly, on the home field of the defending World Series Champions.

What to Watch For: 9/29

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Washington Nationals (95-62) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (85-72)

RHP Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 2.90) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.77)

The Nationals look to bounce back behind Jordan Zimmermann after dropping the opening game of the series in St. Louis last night. They will face Cardinals righty Kyle Lohse, against whom they scored five runs in 5.2 innings in on September 1 in Washington.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

From manager Davey Johnson on how aware the team will be of the results in Atlanta, with the NL East Magic Number down to two:

“We’ll probably do a little more scoreboard watching than usual. But it’s real easy to scoreboard watch now, they’ve got it plastered all over every stadium you’re in.”

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Zimmermann RHP

95 CURLY W’S IN THE BOOKS

With five games remaining, Washington has matched a franchise best with 95 wins (‘79 Expos) and needs four wins in its final six games to match the best mark by a D.C.-based team (‘33 Senators). The Nationals are the first ballclub from the Nation’s Capital to eclipse the 90-win plateau in 79 years, or since the pennant-winning 99-win ‘33 AL Nationals. This is the ninth 90-win campaign posted by a D.C. baseball team. From 1913-33, the AL Nationals posted eight 90-win seasons: 1933 (99 wins), 1925 (96), 1930 (94), 1932 (93), 1931 (92), 1924 (92), 1912 (91), 1913 (90).

KEEPING SCORE ON THE SEASON

The Nationals currently pace the Major Leagues in run differential. MLB’s top three: Washington (+137), New York (AL) (+113), St. Louis (+112). The Nationals have allowed the fewest runs (575) in the NL.

C-NOTE

Just one RBI shy of the century mark, Adam LaRoche looks to become just the third player to record a 100-RBI season in a Nationals uniform, joining Ryan Zimmerman (‘06, ‘09) and Adam Dunn (‘09-10). LaRoche would match a career high with his next RBI and has already equaled his career plateau with 32 home runs this season.

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