WASHINGTON • The good news for the Washington Nationals is that they have won at least two games in succession at home 15 times this season.
The bad news is that they are kind of pressed for time if they hope to make it 16.
Playing before a record Nationals Park crowd of 45,017 in their first home postseason game since the 1933 Senators were in the World Series, the Nationals were run over by a train. Their 8-0 loss on Wednesday to the Cardinals, running the run difference between the two teams to 20-4 in the past two games of the National League division series, dumped the Nationals behind in games, two to one. It is a best-of-five series, thus the imperative nature of the Nationals winning two games in a row at home.
"Over 162 games, we had the best team in baseball," said Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth. "I still feel that way.
"One game to play. One game to win."
And then another, of course.
The Nationals, who won a major-league high 98 games this season, have been well off that form in Games 2 and 3 of the division series. They got behind so far so fast Wednesday that the crowd couldn't help them much, and there were a significant number of empty blue seats in the late going.
"It's unfortunate that some of them were leaving in the seventh, eighth inning," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "I don't blame them. We should have given them a better showing.
"Hopefully, they come back (today)."
The raw numbers are some obvious ones. The Cardinals are hitting .300 against the Stephen Strasburg-less Nationals and Washington is batting .240 against the Cardinals. Desmond is hitting .583 on seven for 12, but Werth and Michael Morse are at .250, Adam LaRoche at .091 and 19-year-old Bryce Harper even lower at .067 (one for 15).
The Nationals are three for 24 with runners in scoring position.
But Werth especially will rush to the defense of Harper, his outfield mate.
"It's real easy to sit back and say he's pressing or say it's too big a situation for him," said Werth.
"I believe in the kid, I really do. If he goes tomorrow without getting any hits, I'll bet him on the next day. He's my guy, maybe a once-in-a-lifetime guy."
It wasn't that the Nationals didn't have their chances at veteran righthander Chris Carpenter, who allowed seven hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings. They had little or no chance at hard-throwing relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly, and Fernando Salas had a scoreless inning, too.
Werth, who said, "It's hard to win when you don't score any runs," praised Carpenter's effort.
"Carp's been a dominant pitcher his whole career," said Werth. "Big-game pitcher. We had him on the ropes a couple of times. He's playoff proven. You've got to tip your cap to that, for sure, but I still felt we had a chance to get him."
Desmond agreed but cited Carpenter's competitive fire. "This is no disrespect to him but I don't think any of his success is based on his stuff," he said. "It's his heart."
The Cardinals roughed up 2011 World Series teammate Edwin Jackson for four runs in the first two innings, featuring a three-run homer by much-scrutinized rookie shortstop Pete Kozma.
Jackson said the fateful pitch was designed to go away. It drifted into that dangerous "middle-in" zone.
"If he's trying to 'turn and burn,' it was a perfect pitch for him," Jackson said.
After holding the Cardinals to one unearned run in eight innings at Nationals Park in late August, Jackson was pounded for nine runs in 1 1/3 innings by them less than two weeks ago in St. Louis.
"They're not waiting around for you to get strike one," Jackson said. "They're jumping on pitches early in the count."
Utilityman Mark DeRosa, the former Cardinal who has been oft-injured the past few years and isn't on the Nationals' roster for this series, has seen the Cardinals play like this.
"Man, they're just one of those teams that are not going to beat themselves," said DeRosa.
"It doesn't matter who's out there. When they put that uniform on, it really does remind of me of when I first came up with the Braves, when they would button their jerseys and find a way to win. They're not going to let the moment be too big for them."
DeRosa said he didn't think the moment had been too big for the young Nationals team but that he had witnessed the Carpenter moment before.
"I've seen that act. A couple of times," said DeRosa.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson has won a World Series title with the New York Mets and also has taken Baltimore and Cincinnati into postseason play. He contends he is not worried. Yet.
"Shoot," said Johnson, "I've had my back to worse walls than this."