The St. Louis Cardinals' 8-0 domination of the Washington Nationals on Wednesday afternoon brought Mike Matheny's squad one step closer to the NLCS.
The Cards got 5.2 shutout innings from starter Chris Carpenter, who took home the easy win, but it's not like the hitters really needed it.
Jon Jay had two hits, Carlos Beltran had two hits and Matt Holliday had three hits and two RBI. David Freese had two hits and youngster Pete Kozma hit a three-run blast. Even Carpenter himself tallied two hits. Seemingly everyone got into the action as St. Louis racked up 14 hits and crossed the plate eight times.
On the flip side, everyone also got involved for Washington. And by "involved," we're talking about involved in the beating.
Edwin Jackson lasted just five inefficient innings in the loss, and every member of the bullpen who appeared, except Drew Storen, gave up at least one run.
Let's take a closer look at this blowout that put the Cards up two games to one in the best-of-five series.
As 22-year-old Trevor Rosenthal began to mow down Nationals hitters with ease (1.1 scoreless innings, one strikeout), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz expressed just how dominant the kid looked:
Rosenthal vs Werth: 97 mph, 97 mph, 100 mph fastball, 82 mph curve for the foul out. Is that legal? Can the kid really do that?— Bernie Miklasz (@miklasz) October 10, 2012
Little Pete Kozma jacked a big home run in the second inning, which put an end to a nasty postseason slump (via ESPN Stats & Info):
#Cardinals SS Pete Kozma was 1-9 in the 2012 postseason with 4 K before homering in the 2nd inning today vs Washington— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 10, 2012
That's great news for Cardinals fans, as Kozma was so important for them down the stretch.
Speaking of Kozma, if you like both Seinfeld and the young shortstop, this next Tweet is for you (via JoeSportsFan.com's Matt Sebek):
Kozma Kramer. -- twitpic.com/b2xij8— Matt Sebek (@MattSebek) October 10, 2012
While everyone was noting the importance of Stephen Strasburg's absence from the mound, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick went a whole 'nother route:
Stephen Strasburg hit .277 with a .759 OPS this season. Yep, the #nationals definitely miss his bat.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) October 10, 2012
Well played, sir. Strasburg on the mound certainly would have helped the Nats, but it wouldn't have mattered with a zero in their own run column.
The Washington Post's Mike Wise has an intriguing opinion about St. Louis' success and how it hasn't dropped off since the loss of Tony LaRussa:
Thus far, this series has proved that Tony LaRussa was really overrated.— Mike Wise (@MikeWiseguy) October 10, 2012
There's no denying how successful Mike Matheny has been in LaRussa's stead, but I'm sure that Tweet will go over really well.
Finally, if all you Nationals fans are feeling glum about the ugly loss, at least you've got this (via Washington Nationals' official Twitter account):
That's a lot of disappointed fans.
Grades for Key Players
Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals: A
Carpenter, who coincidentally—or more accurately, not coincidentally—was the last Cardinal to pitch a shutout in the postseason, wasn't overly dominant in this one, but he did his job to near perfection.
The secondary stats aren't jaw-dropping: seven hits, two walks and just two strikeouts in 5.2 innings. Nonetheless, it's hard to nitpick a performance that saw Carpenter give up zero runs and just two hits to anyone not named Ryan Zimmerman or Ian Desmond, especially when you consider it was just his fourth start of the season.
Oh yeah, and he had two hits at the plate, too.
When it comes down to it, Carpenter couldn't have been better in giving his team a chance to win, and that's all that matters.
Pete Kozma, St. Louis Cardinals: A
Pick a hitter, any hitter.
I'm going with Kozma here because the little man who had such a scorching end to the season struggled in the first three games of the playoffs, but quickly put an end to that with a big second-inning home run that really set the tone for the rest of the game.
As evidenced by the eight runs and 14 hits spread out across the entire team, this Cardinals lineup is dangerous. But when Kozma adds this type of production at the end of it, St. Louis is a tough team to stop.
Edwin Jackson, Washington Nationals: C-
There's no doubt that Jackson, who entered the game with a 4.03 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, needs to be better, but in hindsight, he also could have been a lot worse.
The 29-year-old left the game after giving up four runs on eight hits and a walk through five innings while striking out four. With this powerful Nationals lineup, that oftentimes is good enough to get a win.
But Washington's inability to cross the plate and the bullpen meltdown will make this game look a lot worse than how Jackson left it.
Still, it sure would have been nice to have Stephen Strasburg in this rotation spot.
Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals: A
With the exception of Desmond, there weren't really any positives from Washington's side of the field. I'm a positive guy, so I'll give the talented young shortstop a mention.
The Nationals recorded just seven hits on the day, but Desmond, whose playoff average is now up to a robust .583, went 3-for-4 and did just about everything he could besides take the mound.
It's unfortunate—at least for Washington fans—that the Nationals let such a solid day at the plate go completely wasted. Besides Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, the rest of Washington's lineup deserves a big, cold "F."
Game 4, which takes place at Nationals Park on Thursday at 4:00 p.m. ET. With the Cardinals now leading the series 2-1, the Nationals are in a must-win situation at home.