The St. Louis Cardinals slugged their way to a World Series championship last year, and they managed to do it despite a consistently quick hook for their starting pitchers. For Game 2 of the National League Division Series, the Cardinals brought back the old template, slugging their way past the Washington Nationals, 12-4, and evening up the series, 1-1.
Carlos Beltran had two home runs, and Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso each added a solo shot. Beltran was the first switch-hitter to hit two homers in the same playoff game since … Carlos Beltran, who last did it in Game 4 of the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals. It was the third multi-homer playoff game of Beltran's career.
Jordan Zimmermann, who finished seventh in the National League in ERA, started the game for the Nationals, but he switched luggage with Joe Saunders at the airport. Zimmermann had only one game all season in which he allowed more than four runs, but it happened to be against the Cardinals on Sept. 1, when he gave up eight runs in a losing effort. He fared slightly better on Monday, but mostly because Davey Johnson had a quicker hook. Zimmermann was pulled after three innings, and he allowed five runs on seven hits.
The Cardinals fell behind early, as Zimmermann knocked in a runner on a butcher-boy play in the top of the second, but the Cardinals stormed back in the bottom-half of the inning, with David Freese doubling home a run to tie the game 1-1. After Descalso singled home another run, Cards manager Mike Matheny made the bold move of pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Jaime Garcia with runners on first and third and one out. Skip Schumaker was sent up, and he grounded out to give the Cardinals another run. Jon Jay finished the scoring with a two-out single, putting St. Louis up 4-1.
Garcia threw only two innings, walking three, allowing a run, and throwing 51 pitches.
A solo shot from Craig put the Cards up 5-1 in the third, and Descalso's homer in the fourth off reliever Craig Stammen pushed the lead to 6-1. The Cardinals added on another run on a Danny Espinosa error at the end of the fourth, threatening to pull away.
But the Nationals didn't go away quietly, at least, not at first. With one out in the fifth, Ryan Zimmerman and Andy LaRoche had back-to-back solo home runs. After Beltran's first home run in the sixth made it 8-3, the Nationals got two runners on with no one out in the top of the seventh, Ryan Zimmerman hit into what GameDay describes as "a sacrifice double play," which looks like this:
Harper made the second out of the inning at third, down by four. He probably won't do that again, so have your yuks now, National League.
The Cardinals tacked on in the bottom of the eighth against lefty Sean Burnett, putting the game out of reach with a Jon Jay RBI triple and Beltran's second homer of the game.
In other news, Jon Jay made a sweet catch in the sixth inning, only to be visited by the spectral apparition of a giant, disembodied Tony La Russa head.
Not worth it, Jon. Not worth it.
The series travels to Washington D.C., with Chris Carpenter going against Edwin Jackson in Game 3.