The St. Louis Cardinals will look to even up the National League Championship Series at home on Saturday night. The Washington Nationals, fresh off their stunning upset of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series, beat the Cardinals by a score of 2-0 on Friday to win Game 1 on the road.
Washington got a dominant start from Anibal Sanchez, who didn't allow a hit until there were two outs in the eighth inning. He allowed one other baserunner on a hit by pitch, and struck out five over his 7.2 innings of work. It's not the first time the veteran pitcher has flirted with a postseason no-hitter, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Second baseman Howie Kendrick was not done playing the role of hero after hitting a 10th inning grand slam on Wednesday to stun the Dodgers and win the NLDS. Kendrick scored the Nats first run in the second inning, then drove in Adam Eaton in the seventh inning for the insurance run. Cardinals starter Miles Molakas did just fine, allowing seven hits and one earned run in six innings, but he was simply out-dueled by Sanchez.
The Cardinals will send Adam Wainwright out on the mound in Game 2. They will be hard-pressed to wake up the bats against Nationals starter Max Scherzer, who has allowed four earned runs in 13 innings of work this postseason.
Here's how to watch Game 2.
NLCS Game 2 Information
When: Saturday, Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Busch Stadium in St. Louis
Live stream: Watch TBS
The Cardinals are likely left feeling frustrated and perplexed by their performance on Friday night. Sanchez cooly dispatched batter after batter, suppressing an offense that was coming off a 13-run explosion in the first three innings of Game 5 against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday. A day or two and a different arm makes all the difference when you're trying to square up a baseball.
"Some guys think he has five pitches,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold. “Sometimes I think he has nine. He throws everything at different speeds. He keeps hitters off balance. I think the key to any pitcher, if you’re not a power pitcher, is to keep guys off balance. He never throws two of the same pitches. He always mixes all his pitches in.”
Sanchez's shut-down performance means the Cardinals have to make up for a home loss against Scherzer, before going on the road and presumably facing the other two stars in the Nationals rotation, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg.
Washington will also be looking to generate more offense in Game 2 and beyond, because two runs rarely gets it done in the postseason. It won't be easy, as Wainwright was brilliant in his lone start this postseason, giving up four hits and striking out eight over 7.2 shutout innings against Atlanta. The 38-year-old is long on postseason experience. Saturday will be the 14th start and 26th playoff appearance of his career.
The key will be stringing hits together, as they managed to scatter 10 of them across Game 1. Kendrick, one of the sport's great natural hitters, has a five-game hitting streak going and will test Wainwright and any other Nationals pitcher who has to face him. The team will be hoping the likes of Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman can also keep getting on base and making pitcher's sweat. It also helps the Nationals cause if Zimmerman can flash the glove again like he did on this spectacular play in the eighth inning, per the MLB:
The Cardinals need a spark from the likes of All-Star Paul DeJong, Paul Goldschmidt, Marcell Ozuna and others. Dropping two home games at the start of a playoff series is very nearly a death sentence, especially against a team that is stocked with talented starters capable of eating up innings.