The Washington Times - August 30, 2012, 05:15PM

The Washington Nationals’ pitching staff has made it clear throughout the entire 2012 season that they are the best in the major leagues. But it’s their offense that has been making things go for the past few weeks (the five-game losing streak aside).

Thursday night, in what might be one of their toughest final tests, the Nationals will face a team with an offense that has been more potent even than their own. The Nationals are currently tied for third in the major leagues in run differential, having allowed 96 fewer runs than they’ve scored. The Cardinals? They’re the best in the majors with a +113 mark. 


But the Cardinals have also been shutout their last two games — a sin that seems so egregious for such a talented offense it prompted hitting coach Mark McGwire to tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “This offense should never be shut out. I’m all for tipping the hat if the pitcher is dealing. But the last two nights, (the pitchers) were very hittable. Getting shutout like that… I’m always troubled by that with this offense because our offense should never be shut out.”

As the Nationals packed up and left Miami for the last time this season, they were prepared for the challenge that awaited them in this four-game series.

“I think we trust our pitchers,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “I think if anyone can hold a good offensive team down it’s going to be our pitchers, but we needed to get going again. We went through a little slide there where we ran into three hot pitchers in Philly… and then (Tuesday) night we had some chances here and just didn’t take advantage of it. (Wednesday) to pick up some runs, get everyone going again, kind of have some momentum going back home was huge.”

Here are the full lineups as Edwin Jackson faces off with the team he won a World Series with last season:


Jayson Werth RF
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Michael Morse LF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Jesus Flores C
Edwin Jackson P


Jon Jay CF
Carlos Beltran RF
Matt Holliday LF
Allen Craig 1B
Yadier Molina C
David Freese 3B
Skip Schumaker 2B
Rafael Furcal SS
Jaime Garcia P