ST. LOUIS — After getting just three hits and squandering numerous chances in a tough 3-2 loss Sunday in Game 1, most figured the Cardinals offense would have a better day Monday in Game 2.
Not many could have expected this. The Cardinals erupted for 13 hits, four home runs and 12 runs in a 12-4 rout of the Washington Nationals at Busch Stadium.
The win evened the best-of-five series at 1-1 as the teams head to Washington for the remaining three games beginning on Wednesday afternoon. But it also reminded the Nationals about just how dangerous the Cardinals offense can be.
“I hope I never see this offense again,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “Their numbers speak for themselves. They have got a fine-hitting ball club.”
Needing to win Monday to avoid heading on the road down 0-2 in the series, the Cardinals responded to a Washington run in the top of the second inning with four runs of their own in the bottom of the inning.
The Cardinals had just three hits Sunday. They had four consecutive hits and five total in the second inning alone on Monday. Singles by Allen Craig and Yadier Molina put runners at the corners with no outs before an RBI double from David Freese and a run-scoring single from Daniel Descalso put St. Louis in front 2-1.
Pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker added an RBI ground out and Jon Jay followed with a two-out hit to score the fourth run (he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double) and quickly give the Cardinals some breathing room.
“We’re definitely a team that feeds off each other offensively and when one guy gets after it and swings the bat well, I think everybody feeds off that a bit,” Craig said. “I think that’s the responsibility we have, just to get hits and get things going.
“Our offense is too good to be held down for too long. Maybe a day or two, but I don’t feel like it’s going to last too long and we’ll snap out of it and we did and it was great.”
But the Cardinals were just getting started at the plate. Craig added a towering solo home run in the third inning, giving the Cardinals a 5-1 cushion and ending a rough outing for Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann.
The right-hander finished with a 2.94 ERA in the regular season, one of the lowest in the National League. But he struggled against the Cardinals, allowing 11 earned runs in 10 innings over two starts against them down the stretch.
Those numbers only got worse Monday as the talented Zimmermann was tagged for seven hits and five runs in just three innings — his shortest start of the season.
“Against Zimmermann that’s big for us,” said outfielder Jon Jay. “We know what type of offense we have when we are going out there and grinding and having good at-bats and we did that today. When we do that, we’ve been tough on starters, it doesn’t matter who is pitching.
“We were able to come up with big hits today. We’ve seen it all year, when we are able to do that, we are pretty dangerous.”
Descalso launched a solo homer in the fourth inning before Carlos Beltran decided to join the fun in the sixth. And boy, did he ever. The veteran hit two home runs, a solo shot in the sixth and a two-run blast in the eighth, to put an exclamation point on the impressive offensive onslaught.
But Beltran did more than just that. He added to his impressive postseason resume that now includes 13 home runs in 25 career playoff games and a career .362 average.
Bringing back memories of his impressive 2004 postseason while with Houston, Beltran appears ready to make the most of his current chance with the Cardinals.
“I’m just enjoying it because you never know when it’s going to be the last time you’re in this type of situation,” Beltran said. “It’s fun, brother. We work hard during offseason, spring training, regular season to be in these types of situations.
“After all the years, being able to fight to be in this type of situation, I’m grateful. Thanks to God for this opportunity because it’s a great thing for me. At the stage I am in my career, I was thinking to sign with a team that would give me this type of opportunity and the Cardinals believed in what I did last year.”
Added Freese, “He’s a prime-time player. It’s incredible. Everybody goes back to ‘04 and we were all watching it and you look at what he’s doing right now, it’s good to see and we’re happy for him. This is the reason why we signed him.”
Said Descalso, “That’s Carlos Beltran right there. That guy was born to whack baseballs. He put two beautiful swings on balls today and you guys have seen what he can do when he gets hot, so it was nice to see him hit a couple balls today.”
But there was more than just Beltran’s performance for the Cardinals to be excited about. They had hits from up and down the lineup and looked every bit like the group that led or was near the top of the league in nearly all offensive categories.
And with Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler—- two pitchers the Cardinals rocked last week in St. Louis — scheduled to start the next two games for Washington, we could be in for more of the same the rest of the series.
“We know this offense has the potential to do this,” said manager Mike Matheny. “It was nice to see this, and hopefully it becomes contagious and the guys just keep going.”