The Cardinals are one game off the wild card lead in the National League and sit four games behind Cincinnati for NL Central supremacy. After losing the opener of this series in 13 innings on Thursday, St. Louis responded with a 4-2 triumph Friday thanks to solo homers from Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Pujols owns 401 home runs in his career after belting No. 400 a day before.
Jon Jay also plated a run and starter Jaime Garcia threw 5 1/3 shutout innings with seven strikeouts to improve to 12-6. Ryan Franklin gave up a run in the ninth and still managed to post his 22nd save of the season.
"Every game is big, especially in the situation we're in now," Garcia said.
Hoping to duplicate Garcia's success on the mound tonight will be Kyle Lohse, who is just 2-5 with a 6.47 ERA in 11 starts this season. He ended a two-game slide his last time out in a win at Pittsburgh on Monday, as he limited the Pirates to two runs and six hits in 5 1/3 frames.
Lohse, a right-hander, beat Washington on May 17 this season and is 3-1 in nine career matchups, seven of which have been starts, with the Nationals.
Washington is still trying to get over the awful news that pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg will likely undergo Tommy John surgery on his right arm, and may not be available until the 2012 campaign.
The Nationals sustained their fifth loss in six tries last night, as Willie Harris homered and Ian Desmond ended with three hits and a run scored.
"We had 12 hits. The opportunities are out there," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "That means we're competitive against tough pitchers and tough ball clubs."
Scott Olsen took the loss for Riggleman's club after yielding three runs -- one earned -- in six innings.
Toeing the rubber for the Nats tonight will be veteran Livan Hernandez. The big right-hander, however, is 0-2 in his last four starts and was beaten by the Cubs on Monday at Nationals Park. In the 9-1 decision, Hernandez gave up seven runs and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Hernandez was coming off seven innings of two-run ball at Atlanta, but couldn't carry the success into his most recent outing. He is 8-9 in 26 starts this season and 5-7 in 18 career meetings -- all starts -- against St. Louis.
Washington halted a six-game losing streak in this series with Thursday's triumph. St. Louis has still prevailed in 14 of the last 17 meetings between the teams and swept a two-game set from the Nationals at Busch Stadium in May.