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With a show of force, Cards tie series

2012-10-08T21:15:00Z 2012-10-10T18:00:38Z With a show of force, Cards tie seriesBY DERRICK GOOLD stltoday.com
October 08, 2012 9:15 pm  • 

ST. LOUIS • They knew they had it in them.

After weeks of teasing and tormenting their manager who believed that his lineup was capable of doing so much more -- so much more consistently -- as an offense, the Cardinals flexed their might. In a show of unbridled and unrelenting offense, the Cardinals thumped the Washington Nationals, 12-4, to tie the National League division series at one game apiece.

The best-of-five series shifts to Washington for Game 3 on Wednesday.

The Cardinals drilled four home runs, including two from Carlos Beltran, and got a combined total of six RBIs from the top batters in the order, Beltran and leadoff man Jon Jay. Every starter for the Cardinals except for the pitcher, Jaime Garcia, scored a run. Every starter but Matt Holliday had a hit. As a lineup, they combined for a postseason record eight extra-base hits.

The 12 runs were the most scored by the Cardinals in a division series game since October 2002 when they hung a dozen on Arizona.

Washington used seven different pitchers to try and halt the offense.

Only one kept them without a hit.

Beltran clubbed two home runs in his final two at-bats of the game, giving him 13 postseason home runs in his career. Both of his homers traveled more than 435 feet according to estimates.

To his three RBIs and two hits, center fielder Jay added a tremendous catch in the sixth inning. He robbed Danny Espinosa of extra bases by reaching up for the catch as he slammed into the wall near the logo for Tony La Russa's retired No. 10. Jay was knocked to the ground but held up the ball for the out.

The offensive outbreak, however, came only after Lance Lynn rescued the club from falling behind just as rapidly. Garcia labored through both of his innings, inviting trouble that never happened but always seemed one swing away. He need 51 pitches to collect six outs. Manager Mike Matheny had a quick hook and went to his bullpen as Garcia wobbled to finish the second inning.

The Cardinals were down 1-0 when Garcia threw his final pitch.

Lynn threw three innings. He allowed only two solo home runs, but by the time he yielded them the Cardinals had built a 7-1 lead. Lynn struck out five, pitched two scoreless innings as the Cardinals rallied, and scored the victory.

***

Make it 13 for Beltran, 12 for the Cards

After hinting at it earlier, the Cardinals have made it official.

A rout is afoot at Busch Stadium.

Carlos Beltran hit his second home run of the game -- this time a two-run shot into the distant bleachers beyond left-center field -- and gave the Cardinals a 11-4 lead with still an out to give in the eighth inning. Beltran's homer scored Jon Jay, who had tripled home his third RBI of the game in the about before Beltran's.

This is the second time in his career that Beltran has hit two home runs in a division series game, and it's the second time in less than two weeks that he's hit two homers in a game against Washington. Beltran now has 13 home runs in the postseason.

Two are four the Cardinals. Seven are against them.

The home runs Beltran hit today have totaled an estimated distance of 880 feet.

His previous two-homer game came in October 2004 against the Atlanta Braves while he was playing for the Houston Astros. That same October, Beltran hit four homers against the Cardinals in the National League championship series.

***

Beltran cranks 12th postseason homer

The Cardinals' chances of getting to October and possibly doing damage once there was one reason -- arguably the reason -- that drew Carlos Beltran to the club as a free agent.

On Monday, he joined in the process.

Having singled in both of the Cardinals' previous postseason games this season, Beltran cranked a solo home run off the third-deck facade in the sixth inning to further the Cardinals' jubilee this afternoon. They lead 8-4 through 6 1/2 innings. The Cardinals have hit three solo home runs in the game. There have been five homers hit overall between the two teams.

Beltran's traveled an estimated 441 feet.

His first playoff homer as a Cardinal gives him 12 postseason homers in his career. Seven of those 12 have come against the Cardinals.

The 12th home came in the 93 postseason at-bat.

***

Cards pad lead but Nats stir in fifth

A day after Washington right fielder Jayson Werth robbed a home run from Daniel Descalso at the right-field wall, the Cardinals second baseman put one well out of reach of even Werth.

A rout is on at Busch Stadium.

Descalso's first homer of the postseason and a nifty baserunning play by Pete Kozma has the Cardinals taking a 7-1 lead against the Nats in Game 2 of the National League division series. The Cardinals ahve scored seven unanswered runs, all after Jaime Garcia threw his final pitch of his abbreviated two-inning outing.

In the fourth inning, the Nats went to their bullpen. Craig Stammen was welcomed into the game by Descalso solo homer.

Stamen then walked Pete Kozma.

The Cardinals' rookie shortstop -- as mentioned below -- has found the postseason unforgiving in two games. He's been a part of two key defensive plays that tilted the games. His error in Sunday's game gave way to the two runs that won it for Washington. Kozma hsa yet to get his first hit of the postsesaon, but he's found a way to impact that game offensively on the bases.

In Atlanta, it was Kozma who scored from second on a ball that didn't travel more than 80 feet up the first-base line. This afternoon, he pulled off the same stunt. On Lynn's sacrifice bunt, Kozma didn't slow down and was able to wheel from first to third on the play. That put him in scoring position for Jon Jay's sharp grounder that second baseman Danny Espinosa misplayed.

That run put the Cardinals ahead 7-1.

The Nationals answered with two solo homers off Lynn in the fifth inning. Ryan Zimmerman hit the first, and Adam LaRoche followed with a solo shot into the bleachers in right-center field.

That slashed the lead to 7-3 through five innings.

Joe Kelly is on in relief of Lynn. The Cardinals' righty -- their emergency starter in this case -- pitched three innings and allowed the two solo homers. He struck out five to buy the Cardinals time for their seven runs.

***

With Lynn in relief, Craig extends lead

If last October was his breakout and this season was his affirmation, then consider this postseason a continuation.

Cardinals cleanup hitter Allen Craig, who hit four homers last postseason and then clubbed 22 in five months this season, turned on an inside fastball for the first homer of this NLDS against Washington. The solo shot put the Cardinals ahead 5-1 in Game 2.

Craig keyed the Cardinals' rally in the second inning with a leadoff single smashed off third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. With two outs in the third inning, Craig didn't go through the fielder.

He went over them all.

Craig ripped a 1-1 fastball from Jordan Zimmermann into the seats beyond the left-field wall. The ball traveled an estimated 398 feet, and Craig had to momentarily watch to make sure it stayed fair.

Lynn is out for his second inning of relief work. The righty isn't too far removed from making starts and should have the stamina to go deep into the game -- as long as he's effective. The Cardinals also have Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal available should they need innings by that bulk.

Zimmermann is out of the game after three innings. He allowed five runs (all earned) on seven hits. He struck out two.

The game is in the hands of the bullpens now.

***

Cards rally for 4-1 lead and Lynn takes over

As Lance Lynn continued warming up for an apparent emergency relief spot, the Cardinals gave him a lead to protect.

The first four Cardinals of the second inning struck hits against Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann. David Freese had the biggest blast when he put a double off the right-center wall to drive home the tying run. Yadier Molina, Freese, and Daniel Descalso would also come around to score to take a 4-1 lead against the Nats.

Descalso had an RBI single. Pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker grounded out on a tremendous play by Washington shortstop Ian Desmond, but the grounder was enough to push home another run.

Leadoff hitter Jon Jay followed with a line drive down the left-field line. That brought Descalso home. Jay was thrown out at second trying to stretch for a double.

The Cardinals had a new lead and a new de facto starter.

Obvious to everybody in the ballpark that Garcia didn't have command of his stuff, or his best stuff to work with today, the one person who could do something about it did. Mike Matheny moved quickly to remove his foundering pitcher. Garcia was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the inning and replaced by Lynn, who will be asked to absorb those innings.

Lynn faced two batters in Game 1.

The 18-game winner pitched a scoreless third inning to get a zero after the Cardinals took a lead. Lynn struck out two.

Garcia completed two innings. He allowed one run on two hits and he walked three against three strikeouts. Of his 51 pitches, 29 were strikes. He fell behind routinely and could have been behind far more than 1-0 after the two innings. Matheny did as Tony La Russa did often during last year's National League championship series -- he got a starter when he showed signs of weakness, not when he was weak.

Garcia was flailing. Lynn was the quickest way to end it.

***

Garcia labors as Nats take 1-0 lead

It took Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia 37 pitches to get his fourth out of the game and before he was able to collect his fifth the Cardinals already had Lance Lynn warming up in the bullpen.

The Cardinals' lefty labored through his first two innings of work this afternoon in Game 2 of the NLDS at Busch Stadium.

Washington took a 1-0 lead as a result.

But it's hard to say the Nationals took advantage.

Garcia has faced 11 hitters through two innings. Three have reached by walks, and two others hit singles. The Cardinals could have gotten out of the whole mess unscathed if not for a delay in the throw by right fielder Carlos Beltran. That would meant Garcia teetered on the brink of a blowout but was brought back without giving up a run.

Washington pitcher Jordan Zimmermann came up with two runners on and one out in the top of the second inning. Zimmermann faked bunt, pulled back, and slapped at the first pitch he saw.

Zimmermann lined the ball out to left for a base hit and Beltran retrieved it quickly.

Ian Desmond rounded third and ignored the stop sign from the third-base case, Bo Porter, the next manager of the Houston Astros.

Beltran didn't throw immediately. He paused.

Had he made an immediate and accurate throw, Desmond was toast.

Desmond was safe at home as a result for a 1-0 lead.

Garcia was able to reset and retire the next two batters. He got Jayson Werth to fly out to left field, and then outdueled rookie Bryce Harper for a strikeout that ended the inning. Garcia has thrown 51 pitches to get those six outs. He's been all over the zone two with 22 of those pitches going for balls.

Lynn continued to warm up during the bottom of the second inning.

***

Busch's sinister shadows greet batters

What Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday called "a shame" on Sunday and first baseman Allen Craig acknowledged was "a challenge," was there to greet the Nationals in their first inning at-bats on Monday.

The shadows have returned.

The clouds that some hitters wanted never came.

Jaime Garcia worked around a couple walks in the first inning to keep the Nationals scoreless. Garcia needed 24 pitches to get through the inning, and he split them evenly -- 12 balls, 12 strikes. Garcia struck out Bryce Harper for the first out and got Mike Morse to chop a grounder to the second baseman. In between there were some of the curious swings that dotted yesterday's middle innings.

"It's definitely tougher at the plate than it is on defense," Nats first baseman Adam LaRoche said before the game. In his first at-bat he had an awkward swing at an off-speed pitch that appeared to get lost in the shadows for him. "At the plate, it's tough. When the shadow moves in, I want to say about the third or fourth inning yesterday, it got to where it was really tough to see the ball, tough to pick up the spin.

"I think that was evident from both sides not getting a lot going offensively -- a lot of bad swings, a lot of balls chased out of that zone that probably normally wouldn't be."

The third or fourth inning Sunday is the first and second inning today.

Yadier Molina spoke after the Game 1 loss about how the shadows -- which stretch between the mound and home plate at this time of day -- can make it difficult to catch as well.

"It was pretty bad, so you have to make adjustments," Molina said. "That’s what I do. What are you going to do? Quit, no? You’ve got to make adjustments and get the job done. You saw on both sides a lot of awkward swings, a lot of chase, so it could be it could be. That’s not the reason we lost the game."

The Cardinals went down in order to Jordan Zimmermann in the first inning. Game 2 is tied, 0-0, as they head into the second inning.

***

Time for Cards-Nats Game 3 set for noon Wednesday

Major League Baseball has announced the game time for Wednesday's Game 3 in Washington of this National League division series between the Nationals and Cardinals.

First pitch will be at 12:07 p.m. St. Louis time.

The game will be telecast on MLB Network. A MLB official passes along that people interested in watching game the can check to see if MLB Network is available from their cable provider by clicking here:

www.FindMLBNetwork.com

The Cardinals-Nationals game will be the first of four scheduled for that day, pending the end of a couple series. The Reds-Giants series, for example, will be set for that afternoon, but it could end Tuesday with Game 3 in Cincinnati.

***

Matheny plans to stick with Kozma

Shadows aside, there has been no place for rookie shortstop Pete Kozma to hide from the glare of October, and now his manager expresses concern that this much attention might actually erode the young Cardinals' confidence.

"I hope not," Matheny said when talking with local reporters this afternoon before Game 2 of the NL division series. "It's getting kind of beat up right now. It's an increasing distraction if it getting around to him. The more it is ... I tell him, 'You don't need to anything differeent. Come in here and be the same Pete Kozma.' The more it's brought to his attention, the more it becomes a distraction and the more challenge it will be."

Kozma has been at the center of the two defining defensive plays of the season. He was the fielder on the infield fly rule in Atlanta -- the one where he peeled away and let the ball hit the grass. He also committed an error in the eighth inning that sped the result of Game 1 and meant the two runs that flipped the game on the Cardinals were unearned.

Veterans have been talking to Kozma about keeping his confidence buoyed, as it was during the September run when he earned the starting job at shortstop.

Matheny said he has no intention of changes at the position.

"I talked to him. That's a tough play (in the eighth). It checked up on him," Matheny said. "I don't want him to fall into the trap and think he's got be something different. He's been terrific."

 

 

***

Cards, Nats stick with Game 1 lineups

Same as it ever was.

Or at least as it has been for the past week.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who saw his lineup wheeze for only a couple runs Sunday in the opener of this division series against Washington, is going with what otherwise has been working for the club in the past week to 10 days. He'll send out the same lineup for Game 2 of the best-of-five National League division series that he had for Game 1.

It is, however, substantially different from the lineup that reached Nats' starter Jordan Zimmermann for three runs in the seventh inning of his previous start against the Cardinals.

On Sept. 29, Zimmermann started at Busch Stadium -- that is his last start before today's -- and he pitched six scoreless innings until fatigue set in and the seventh unraveled on him.

The Cardinals' lineup that day featured Matt Carpenter at third base (he was 0-for-5) and Skip Schumaker at second base (he was 1-for-4). Neither of them is starting today. Pete Kozma was 3-for-4 in that game, and he does return to today's lineup.

Cardinals lineup:

1. Jon Jay, CF

2. Carlos Beltran, RF

3. Matt Holliday, LF

4. Allen Craig, 1B

5. Yadier Molina, C

6. David Freese, 3B

7. Daniel Descalso, 2B

8. Pete Kozma, SS

9. Jaime Garcia, P

The Cardinals lost the game in September that Zimmermann started here. In the 10th inning, the Cardinals walked Danny Espinosa to face Kurt Suzuki and Suzuki delivered with a two-run double that won the game.

Washington, likewise, has settled on a lineup that it has used for the past month -- even longer than Matheny's "Sunday Best."

Here is the Nats lineup for Game 2:

1. Jayson Werth, RF

2. Bryce Harper, CF

3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

4. Adam LaRoche, 1B

5. Mike Morse, LF

6. Ian Desmond, SS

7. Danny Espinosa, 2B

8. Kurt Suzuki, C

9. Jordan Zimmermann, P

Check back throughout the day here at STLtoday.com and at C-Beat for news, notes, anecdotes, and analysis from Game 2 of the NLDS.

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Baseball writers Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel cover the Cardinals for the Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com. They'll provide daily Cardinals updates here, from the start of spring training through the end of the season and beyond.

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