Cardinals Swat Nats: NL East Champs Facing Elimination

Will GrapperhausContributor IIIOctober 10, 2012

Chris Carpenter improved to 10-2 in the postseason.
Chris Carpenter improved to 10-2 in the postseason.Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Game 3 matchup looked bad on paper.

The results were even worse.

Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter pitched liked a seasoned veteran, dancing in and out of trouble during his 5 and 2/3 innings of work, but he never gave in as the Cardinals shut out the Nationals 8-0 this afternoon to take a 2 games-to-1 lead in their National League Division Series.

Carpenter brought a 9-2 career postseason record into the Game 3 start against Edwin Jackson and the Nationals, as the D.C. area hosted their first MLB playoff game since 1933.

Jackson's postseason resume was a bit thin compared to the former Cy Young Award winner—just a 1-1 record and 4.91 ERA in 22 innings.

In addition, Jackson had trouble in the early innings all year.

Jackson had an unsightly 6.97 ERA in the first inning during the regular season and a marginally better 4.75 in the second. Both marks were the worst on a vaunted Nationals pitching staff, and in Game 3 the Cardinals plated runs in both frames.

St. Louis scored a run in the top of the first inning on a double by Allen Craig, one of five doubles on the day for the Cards and one of six extra bases in all, including a three-run home run by rookie shortstop Pete Kozma in the second inning.

The key moment in the game came in the bottom of the fifth, as the Nationals put runners at first and third with Adam LaRoche coming up—a player who has had great success against Carpenter.

As Carpenter said after the game, "I was not going to let Adam LaRoche hurt me."

The veteran hurler was true to his word, walking LaRoche after getting ahead 0-2, to face Michael Morse with the bases loaded.

Morse, of course, struck the "phantom" Grand Slam in St. Louis in these teams' final regular-season series. Another bomb would have tied the game at four. Instead, Carpenter got Morse to fly out to Carlos Beltran in right field to end the threat.

LaRoche ended the day 0-for-3 and is batting .091 for the series. But he wasn't the only culprit, as the Nats were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners stranded on the day.

Phenom Bryce Harper was 0-for-5 again and is batting just .067 in the three games.

The Cards weren't much better, stranding nine runners themselves, but their three clutch hits with runners on were more than enough for Carpenter to improve to a career 10-2 record in postseason play.

The Nationals will face elimination tomorrow as they send Ross Detwiler to the mound, whom the Cardinals beat 10-4 on September 30.

A win by the Cards would put them in the NLCS for the fourth time in eight seasons.