- Davey Johnson was asked Monday if the explosive Cardinals offense he'd just seen was the one he expected, and the Nationals' manager delivered an answer Jordan Zimmermann and the rest of his club would most certainly agree with.
"I hope I never see this offense again," Johnson said.
The Cardinals have made a habit of roughing up the Auburndale native, and Monday was no different. They piled on him for five runs on seven hits in just three innings and never let up, pounding Washington, 12-4, at Busch Stadium to tie up the National League Division Series at one game apiece. So the best-of-five series will become a best-of-three affair starting Wednesday at Nationals Park, and the Nationals are happy where they stand, no matter the final score in Game 2.
"You work all season to get home-field advantage. And we got it," right fielder Jayson Werth said. "We're going home with the series tied, and we get a chance to play in front of our fans, and that's what it's all about. We did our job while we were here -- we split the series -- and we'll head home."
That's the silver lining for the Nationals, of course: They can put the blowout loss behind them because they'll have three chances to win two games in front of their home fans. They remain confident in Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler to win the next two games and push them forward to the NL Championship Series.
Early on, the Cardinals were having their way with Zimmermann. The righty struggled against St. Louis in two starts this year, giving up 11 runs in 10 innings, and entered Game 2 with a career 9.12 ERA against the Cardinals. That's a departure from the norm for a pitcher who made 26 quality starts this season, including a run of 21 straight to begin the year, and finished with a 2.94 ERA.
It was difficult for anyone in either clubhouse to explain exactly why the Cardinals have Zimmermann's number. The right-hander said he just wasn't executing his pitches. Johnson said Zimmermann came out throwing too many fastballs away from hitters, a mistake against a lineup fully capable of hitting fastballs, even in the afternoon shadows. Catcher Kurt Suzuki simply offered that some hitters see certain pitchers better than others, so maybe that's the case with Zimmermann and the Cards.
Whatever the reason, St. Louis got to Zimmermann early again Monday. He had given himself a one-run lead with an RBI single in the second inning, but he surrendered it just as quickly as he built it, giving up hits to the first four batters he faced in the bottom of the inning, with David Freese's double and Descalso's single putting the Cardinals ahead by one. Freese came around to score on a groundout, and Descalso came home on an RBI single by Jon Jay.
After a four-run second inning, Zimmermann bounced back and recorded two outs in the third, but Allen Craig launched a 1-1 fastball down the left-field line, putting St. Louis ahead by four and ending Zimmermann's day after just three innings.
"It's definitely tough. I wanted to go out there and go deep into the game and try to get out of here with two wins. I didn't do my part," Zimmermann said. "I feel like if the starter doesn't go out and do their part, it kind of snowballs with the relievers sometimes, and that's kind of what happened."
Indeed, the Cardinals didn't stop after Zimmermann exited the game. Craig Stammen gave up two runs in one-third of an inning. Michael Gonzalez served up a homer to Carlos Beltran. Sean Burnett allowed four runs -- three earned -- in the eighth on a triple by Jay, Beltran's second homer and Craig's RBI double.
Werth walked through the clubhouse after the game, reminding a few players that they did their job in getting one win -- the common refrain from just about everyone in the Nationals' clubhouse Monday night. Now, Washington heads home, bringing the nation's capital its first playoff baseball game since 1933.