Cardinals 12, Nationals 4

Jordan Zimmermann always has trouble with the St. Louis

Cardinals. Game 2 of the NL division series was no exception.

The Washington Nationals’ right-hander retired the side in order

in the first inning, then struggled to get anybody else out in a

12-4 loss Monday that evened the best-of-five series at a game

apiece.

Carlos Beltran hit the last two of the Cardinals’ four homers

and St. Louis chased an ineffective Zimmermann after three innings.

Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso also went deep to help the

defending World Series champions build a big lead that compensated

for a two-inning start from an ailing Jaime Garcia.

”They have a great lineup,” Zimmermann said. ”You get a few

guys out and then you’ve got Beltran, (David) Freese and it never

stops. You have to make your pitches and I wasn’t able to do that

tonight.”

Zimmermann has never beaten the Cardinals in six career starts

counting the postseason, allowing at least five runs in all but one

of them. He yielded five runs and seven hits Monday, his shortest

start of the season.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Zimmermann didn’t mix it up

enough and threw too many fastballs.

”All young staffs go through this. When you get into a thing

like this, sometimes they revert back to just saying, `OK, I’m

going to go with what I feel is my best and pound away,” Johnson

said. ”Zim’s been better than that. You’ve got to get them off

sitting on just one pitch.”

After the perfect first inning for Zimmermann, seven of the next

11 batters reached safely as the Cardinals scored four in the

second and one in the third to go up 5-1.

Washington catcher Kurt Suzuki said Zimmermann had the same

stuff in the second inning as he did in the first. The Cardinals

were the ones who made the key adjustments.

”They just came out and put some good at-bats together,”

Suzuki said. ”They put the ball in play, moved runners around and

when you do that you are going score some runs.”

Craig hit his fifth career postseason homer and scored three

times.

”You hate to get blown out, but you get walked off, it probably

hurts a little bit more,” Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth said.

”The game was out of reach for a while. No big deal, a loss is a

loss. We’ll head home and feel good about it.”

Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche hit consecutive homers in the

fifth for the Nationals, who head home for the remainder of the

best-of-five series. But the NL East champions are without All-Star

ace Stephen Strasburg, shut down for the rest of the season early

last month to protect his surgically repaired arm.

”I miss him not experiencing this with us and he misses not

experiencing it with us,” Johnson said. ”But we did the right

thing, there’s no question.

”Obviously the guy was my No. 1. He’d have been the guy that

opened up the series.”

Game 3 is Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park, the first

postseason contest in the nation’s capital since the original

Senators played the New York Giants in the 1933 World Series. Edwin

Jackson starts for Washington against longtime Cardinals ace Chris

Carpenter, who made only three starts during the regular season

because of injury.

The Cardinals are good at bouncing back. They lost the division

series and NLCS openers last fall, then finished strong in the

World Series after spotting Texas a 3-2 lead.

So, they’re on familiar ground. And once again, as a wild

card.

After the Nationals rallied late to win the opener 3-2, there

were no lineup changes in Game 2 – just a lot more clutch hitting

from players accustomed to October pressure.

Beltran homered twice in the postseason for the third time in

his career, connecting in the sixth off Mike Gonzalez and eighth

off Sean Burnett. Jon Jay had two hits and three RBIs, plus an

outstanding catch at the center-field wall to deprive Danny

Espinosa of extra bases in the sixth.

St. Louis was 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position during

Game 1 and totaled just three hits, but the Cardinals had five hits

in a four-run second Monday. Descalso hit his first postseason

homer in the fourth, a day after getting robbed by Werth’s leaping

catch at the right-field wall. Beltran’s drive off Gonzalez in the

sixth banged off the facade in the third deck in left, estimated at

444 feet.

”Their numbers speak for themselves,” Johnson said of the

Cardinals. ”They have got a fine hitting ballclub, and good

pitching will slow down good hitting, but you’ve got to make

pitches, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Shadows creeped past the pitcher’s mound around the third inning

and didn’t seem to be as big of an issue in Game 2, which started 1

1/2 hours later than the opener. Both teams had issues with the

playing conditions after the opener.

Nationals rookie Bryce Harper went 1 for 5 and struck out four

times. He also was thrown out at third base on an ill-advised

attempt to advance. He is 1 for 10 in the series with six

strikeouts.

”Do I look overanxious? You think so?” Harper said to a

reporter. ”Maybe you should be a hitting coach.”

Zimmermann lasted a season-low three innings while pitching on

eight days’ rest. His next-shortest outing also was against the

Cardinals, when he coughed up a four-run, first-inning cushion and

was chased after yielding eight runs in 3 2-3 innings during a 10-9

loss at home.

The numbers weren’t favorable for the 25-year-old right-hander

prior to first pitch, given he’s 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA in five career

regular-season starts against the Cardinals. They were 3 for 5 with

runners in scoring position against a pitcher who led the majors by

holding opponents to a .160 average.

Garcia threw 51 pitches in two innings and allowed Zimmermann’s

RBI single in the second. He was removed with a sore shoulder and

sent for an MRI exam. The left-hander missed two months this season

with shoulder fatigue.

The Cardinals had 18-game winner Lance Lynn warming up in the

second and the right-hander stood on the bullpen mound during St.

Louis’ four-run inning. Pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker stood on the

top dugout step while Pete Kozma struck out for the first out in

the second and it was no decoy, with Schumaker contributing a

run-scoring groundout to the rally.

St. Louis opened the second with four straight hits, singles by

Craig and Yadier Molina that set the table followed by an RBI

double from Freese and a run-scoring single from Descalso.