Nationals vs. Cardinals: 5 Biggest Matchups in Game 2 of NLDS

Brandon Croce@@BrandonCroceAnalyst IOctober 8, 2012

Nationals vs. Cardinals: 5 Biggest Matchups in Game 2 of NLDS

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    The Nationals don't have very long to celebrate their first playoff win from Sunday as Game 2 is Monday against the defending World Series champs, who won't want to fall behind two games to none. The first game was very close, as both teams seemed evenly matched, so Monday's game should be another good one.

    The Nationals will be sending out starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann to face the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia, who was a key piece last postseason for St. Louis.

    These are the five biggest matchups to watch in today's game.

Hitters vs. the Sun

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    The late afternoon start time caused problems for hitters at the plate for the majority of the game due to shadows that covered home plate. Yadier Molina said after the game about the conditions, "It was pretty bad, but you have to make adjustments and that's what I did."

    Hopefully, Molina will remember those adjustments, as Game 2 is scheduled for a 4:37 PM EST start time. The weather forecast for St. Louis is calling for sun with zero percent chance of rain, according to The shadows should play another big role in today's game.

Mike Matheny vs. Davey Johnson

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    This article provides a good rundown of a few key decisions made by Mike Matheny that didn't work out in Game 1. Even though the Cardinals' players have a lot more postseason experience than the Nationals' when it comes to the managers—it is no competition.

    Johnson has led four different organizations to the postseason and captured one World Series title while this is Matheny's first managerial job. Matheny looked outmatched yesterday and will need to step it up if the Cardinals want to win Game 2.

Jordan Zimmermann vs. Heart of the Cardinals Order

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    The two through five hitters for the Cardinals had a rough Game 1 at the plate, going a combined 1-for-14 and striking out three times. The collective group of Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina will need to have a better output Monday afternoon.

    It won't be easy as they will have to face Jordan Zimmermann who went 12-8 with a 2.94 ERA during the regular season. However, the pressure of the postseason can affect young pitchers and they will sometimes struggle.

    Zimmermann has struggled against the Cardinals in his two starts this year, giving up 11 earned runs in 10 innings pitched. It will be interesting to see which pitcher shows up for the Nationals.

Jayson Werth vs. Jaime Garcia

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    The one game Jaime Garcia pitched against the Nationals this season did not go well for him and the biggest thorn in his side was leadoff man Jayson Werth. In that game, Werth went 2-for-2 against Garcia with one home run, one walk and two runs scored.

    Since being moved to the leadoff spot, Werth has hit .309 with 25 runs scored, and 20 walks in 149 at-bats. This has been one of the moves that has really worked for Davey Johnson and the Nationals this season. If Garcia wants to have a good day, this is one player that he will need to shut down.

Ryan Zimmerman vs. His Shoulder

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    It is no secret that Ryan Zimmerman has been playing with a bad shoulder for the majority of the season and has received a couple of cortisone shots to stay on the field. While those shots help with the pain, fans watching Zimmerman can tell that his shoulder just isn't right.

    Zimmerman is one of the better defensive third basemen in the game when completely healthy, but shoulder pain could flare up. The Nationals will need a healthy (or near healthy) Zimmerman to get past the Cardinals and deep into the postseason.

Players to Watch

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    Washington: Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond

    Ian Desmond was the only player on either team yesterday who seemed to be hitting, going 3-for-4, and the Nationals will need another solid performance from him in Game 2. Jayson Werth will need to continue to hit well against Garcia, and Ryan Zimmerman should bounce back from his two-strikeout, 1-for-5 performance.

    St. Louis: Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina

    If the Cardinals are going to even up the series, these three players can't be held hitless like they were in Game 1.

Game Prediction

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    While I don't see it being easy, I believe the Cardinals will avoid falling behind two games against the Nationals, especially with both games being played in St. Louis. I expect the veterans of the Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina) will get their team ready and lead them to a victory.

    Final Score: 4-3 Cardinals over Nationals