Cardinals vs. Nationals: Why Washington Will Extend Series

Bill Pivetz@@BPiv_SportsCorrespondent IIIOctober 11, 2012

The Washington Nationals head into Thursday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals hoping to force a Game 5.

The Nationals will send out Ross Detwiler to pitch Game 4. He went 10-8 in the regular season with a 3.40 ERA. Kyle Lohse will take the mound for the Cardinals. Lohse went 16-3 this season with a 2.86 ERA.

Detwiler pitched against the Cardinals on September 30 and was knocked out of the second inning after giving up three runs. He also struck out three and walked five.

However, Detwiler has pitched at least five innings in his previous five starts. During that stretch, he had 19 strikeouts and 11 walks. The Nats should be in this game until the end if Detwiler can keep the walks and hits to a minimum.

During the regular season, Detwiler had a 2.84 ERA in day games compared to a 3.56 ERA in night games. Even more promising is that Detwiler’s ERA at home is almost two runs less than his away ERA, 2.59 and 4.38 respectively.

The Nationals need Detwiler to get ahead of hitters early. When ahead in the count, Detwiler has a 2.39 ERA with 66 strikeouts. On the other hand, he has a 4.70 ERA and only 15 strikeouts when behind in the count.

Nationals’ shortstop, Ian Desmond, has been a bright spot for the Nationals in this series. He's hitting .583 with seven hits, including one double. Despite not being a power hitter, Desmond is getting on base, which is the first part of scoring runs.

Rookie Bryce Harper is struggling in his first postseason appearance. He is 1-for-15 with a double and six strikeouts. Harper is batting ahead of Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche, who hit 58 home runs combined in the regular season.

The Nationals also need their two veterans to step their game up. In 24 at-bats this postseason, LaRoche and Zimmerman have only hit two home runs and three RBI.

 

Washington had success the last time they faced Lohse, scoring four runs off him in the first inning. Harper singled, Zimmerman doubled, LaRoche walked. Then, on one pitch, Michael Morse hit a grand slam. The Nats ended up winning that game in extra innings, 6-4.

The first pitches to Werth, Harper and Zimmerman were all called strikes; LaRoche and Morse seemed to notice and swung at the first pitch they saw. All five first pitches were breaking balls: sinker, slider, sinker, sinker, sinker. With the success the Nats have over Lohse, they should start the game swinging early in counts.

The defending World Series champions have practically been hitting every ball pitched at them. They are currently batting .300 in the series while the Nats are hitting .240.

In the Game 2 win, the Cardinals scored seven runs in the first four innings. The Nationals only scored one. In Game 3, the Cards scored four runs in the first two innings.

If Washington ends up being down big after a couple of innings like they were in Game 2, then their World Series hopes will be crushed.

For the Nats to extend this series to a Game 5, they need to score early and keep the lead. Building momentum early in the game is the key to victory for a young Nationals team.

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