If not for an unlikely late-game opposite field single in Game One from rookie outfielder Tyler Moore (who's really more of a pull hitter, honestly) the Washington Nationals may very well have lost this series to the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday. 5.0, 3.0 and 5.0 inning outings from their starters. 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position in Game One. 1 for 7 in Game Two. 0 for 8 today. Things have gotten bad pretty quickly for the team that not only won the NL East but finished the regular season with the NL's best record. With today's 8-0 win, the Cards took a 2-1 lead in the NLDS, putting a whole lot of pressure on the Nationals going into the fourth game of the series tomorrow afternoon in Nats Park.
Davey Johnson is not about to give up. "We're not out of this by a long shot," the Nats' 69-year-old skipper told reporters in the post game press conference after today's loss. "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 game tomorrow." As for what went wrong today, it started early. The Nationals were down 4-0 early after an RBI double by Allen Craig in the first and a three-run home run by Pete Kozma in the second, and the Cardinals were in command from the start.
"[Edwin Jackson] just made bad pitches," the Nats' skipper said matter of factly, "Talked to [Kurt] Suzuki, [Jackson] wasn't hitting his spots, and a lot of hits on pitches over the middle half of the plate and good hitters will jump all over it and that's what happened early. I thought he got a little sharper as the game went on, but a couple really bad pitches. That's the story."
"Jackson was missing early on," Johnson continued, "trying to make pitches and then when he had to come in he came right down Broadway and experienced hitters lay off stuff around the zone and tomahawk the stuff in. Even the shortstop [Kozma], that was a cookie, a little half-in, thigh-high. Couldn't get the ball down early, that was the key I said for him." The Cards' shortstop, for his part, just said he was looking for any pitch in the zone and simply got a good one to hit. "We had a runner on third, less than two outs," Kozman said, "so I was just looking for the first pitch in the zone and put it in the outfield."
"Went over the fence," Chris Carpenter added.
The Cards' 37-year-old, 15-year-veteran improved to (10-2) in 15 postseason starts with the win, throwing 5.2 scoreless and giving up seven hits and two walks but no runs. The towering right-hander threw 106 pitches before he was done, but Davey Johnson didn't seem overly impressed by what he saw from the opposing pitcher. "I didn't think Carpenter had his best stuff," Johnson said, "but he didn't give in to anybody, pitched a good ballgame." Good enough to give the Cardinals a 2-1 series lead.
Davey Johnson told reporters today he has faith that Game 4 starter Ross Detwiler can get the job done tomorrow. Asked if he would consider throwing Gio Gonzalez on short rest in what's now a do or die situation, the Nats' manager told reporters, "No. I wouldn't do that. We have two more ballgames. Det's capable of pitching a good game tomorrow. That's been our strength all year. We need a couple more good-pitched games this series." Two will do.
If you're in need of perspective, the Nats' GM provided it after the game in a comment to Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore:
"Don't jump off a bridge. We've won two in a row before." -- Mike Rizzo— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) October 10, 2012