DALY: Cardinals know how to win in October

  • Washington Nationals left fielder Michael Morse (38) shows his frustration as he strikes out to end the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of Major League Baseball's National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals left fielder Michael Morse (38) shows his frustration as he strikes out to end the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of Major League Baseball's National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Edwin Jackson delivers the first pitch in the top of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Edwin Jackson delivers the first pitch in the top of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Cardinals' Pete Kozma (38) is greeted in the dugout after his three-run home run in the top of the second inning as the Washington Nationals hosting the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Cardinals' Pete Kozma (38) is greeted in the dugout after his three-run home run in the top of the second inning as the Washington Nationals hosting the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) pitches in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) pitches in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (38) hits a three run homer in the second inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 4-0 as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (38) hits a three run homer in the second inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 4-0 as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) argues a call with the first base umpire in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) argues a call with the first base umpire in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) shows his frustration in the dugout as he was called out at first on a bunt in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) shows his frustration in the dugout as he was called out at first on a bunt in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34) wears red contacts as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34) wears red contacts as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • A Washington Nationals pitching coach comes to the mound to talk to Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) after struggling in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)A Washington Nationals pitching coach comes to the mound to talk to Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) after struggling in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • The St. Louis Cardinals congratulate each other after a 8-0 win over the Nationals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
The St. Louis Cardinals congratulate each other after a 8-0 win over the Nationals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • ** FILE ** Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) watches the ninth inning from the dugout as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)** FILE ** Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) watches the ninth inning from the dugout as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' relief pitcher Drew Storen delivers in the top of the ninth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' relief pitcher Drew Storen delivers in the top of the ninth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus (52) sits in the dugout after giving up two runs in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus (52) sits in the dugout after giving up two runs in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus (52) shows his frustration after giving up two runs in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus (52) shows his frustration after giving up two runs in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran (3) slides across home plate as he and St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay (19) score in the eighth inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 8-0 against the Washington Nationals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran (3) slides across home plate as he and St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay (19) score in the eighth inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 8-0 against the Washington Nationals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) strikes out in the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) strikes out in the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' relief pitcher Christian Garcia wipes his brow following a conference on the mound in the top of the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' relief pitcher Christian Garcia wipes his brow following a conference on the mound in the top of the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) goes down after being hit by a foul ball in the eighth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) goes down after being hit by a foul ball in the eighth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) throws out St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) in the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) throws out St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) in the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) grimaces after he finishes for the day as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) grimaces after he finishes for the day as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) strikes out in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) strikes out in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (R) scores before the ball gets to Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki in the top of the 6th inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (R) scores before the ball gets to Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki in the top of the 6th inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) misses a catch against the wall in the sixth inning hit by St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese (23) as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) misses a catch against the wall in the sixth inning hit by St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese (23) as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Left to right: Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche (25), right fielder Jayson Werth (28), and center fielder Bryce Harper (34), get ready to take the field for the top of the sixth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Left to right: Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche (25), right fielder Jayson Werth (28), and center fielder Bryce Harper (34), get ready to take the field for the top of the sixth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) squats on third base between plays in the fifth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) squats on third base between plays in the fifth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34) wears red contacts as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34) wears red contacts as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) finishes out the 5th inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) finishes out the 5th inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) throws out St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay (19) on a bunt in the fifth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) throws out St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay (19) on a bunt in the fifth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) shows his frustration in the dugout as he was called out at first on a bunt in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) shows his frustration in the dugout as he was called out at first on a bunt in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) argues a call with the first base umpire in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) argues a call with the first base umpire in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Despite beating the throw, Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) is called out at first on a sacrifice bunt in the second inning in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
Despite beating the throw, Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) is called out at first on a sacrifice bunt in the second inning in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) sits in the dugout after giving up 3 runs in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) sits in the dugout after giving up 3 runs in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) gave up four earned runs in five innings pitches to lose Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) gave up four earned runs in five innings pitches to lose Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki (24) visits with starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) after giving up three runs in the second inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki (24) visits with starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) after giving up three runs in the second inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Kurt Suzuki reacts after striking out in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Kurt Suzuki reacts after striking out in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Cardinals' Jon Jay (19) and Carlos Beltran (3) are greeted at the dugout by Allen Craig (21) after scoring on a two-run RBI single by Matt Holliday in the top of the eighth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Cardinals' Jon Jay (19) and Carlos Beltran (3) are greeted at the dugout by Allen Craig (21) after scoring on a two-run RBI single by Matt Holliday in the top of the eighth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (38) hits a three run homer in the second inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 4-0 as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (38) hits a three run homer in the second inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 4-0 as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Edwin Jackson delivers in the top of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Edwin Jackson delivers in the top of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman is tagged in a force out at second base by Cardinals' Pete Kozma in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman is tagged in a force out at second base by Cardinals' Pete Kozma in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman takes a lead off first base in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman takes a lead off first base in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) winds up to hit a single in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) winds up to hit a single in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) claps his hands as he hits a single as the lead off hitter in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) claps his hands as he hits a single as the lead off hitter in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals Jayson Werth singles on a line drive to center field for his team's first hit in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
Washington Nationals Jayson Werth singles on a line drive to center field for his team's first hit in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Jayson Werth reacts to the National's first hit of the game, his single in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Jayson Werth reacts to the National's first hit of the game, his single in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11), center fielder Bryce Harper (34), and others gets ready for the game in the dugout as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11), center fielder Bryce Harper (34), and others gets ready for the game in the dugout as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The St. Louis Cardinals are what the Washington Nationals want to be. If we’ve learned anything from the first three games of this playoff series, we’ve learned that. Forget regular-season records. The Cardinals win when they need to win. They’ve been there, done that — and they continue to do it, currently at the expense of the Nats, who after Wednesday’s 8-0 home defeat are just nine innings from Next Year.

Has Davey Johnson’s ballclub — playoff virgins for the most part — been a little wide-eyed in this postseason? Well, the Nationals certainly have been out of sorts the past two games. They’ve lost by a combined score of 20-4, gotten two spirit-sapping starts from Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson and left runners in scoring position at an alarming rate. Of course, they’re hardly the first young team that bore little resemblance to itself in its postseason debut, and they won’t be the last.

That said, the Cardinals might be the most underrated defending World Series champ in recent memory. This is a club, I’ll just remind you, that won the title last year without Adam Wainwright and made the playoffs this year without a single win from Chris Carpenter. Carpenter didn’t get his first W of 2012 until Wednesday afternoon, when he pitched 5.2 shutout innings against the Nationals — after missing all but the last two weeks of the season following surgery to repair nerve damage in his right shoulder (a radical procedure that involved removing the top rib on that side).

I ask you: How many teams could not just survive but thrive in such situations? Answer: Only truly special ones. Anyway, that’s who the Nationals have drawn in the first round of the playoffs, and hopefully they’re taking notes. The Cards had to go to Atlanta and win the play-in game to get to the divisional round, so they went to Atlanta and won the play-in game (with the help of a liberal interpretation of the infield-fly rule). And now, after back-to-back batterings of the Nats, they’re on the verge of another trip to the National League Championship Series and possibly their third ring in seven years.

“A team that has character and talent, it’s a tough force to stop,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Character is developed through adversity, and the adversity seemed to start off in spring training when we lose a Carpenter, and then a Lance Berkman goes down. There were plenty of excuses for these guys to make. They have intentionally decided not to go the route of the excuse, just come out and play the game.”

Against this backdrop — Wainwright last season, Carpenter this — the angst about Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown seems a little silly. As the Cardinals have shown, it’s possible to get by without one of your aces if the rest of your roster plays up to its abilities. That’s where the Nationals have fallen painfully short; aside from Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman and a few others, the Nats aren’t playing anywhere close to their abilities. At times, in fact, they’ve seemed like veritable imposters, like ghosts of Nats clubs past.

As Game 3 drew near, the buzz inside Nationals Park was almost loud enough to drown out the quartet of jets that flew overhead. A record crowd of 45,017 poured into the place — 1 o’clock start or no 1 o’clock start — and it couldn’t have been much more supportive, cheering at the slightest provocation (e.g. a full count to a Washington batter). Jackson simply needed to keep that positive energy going, hold the Cards down for a few innings and see if his teammates could put some runs on the board.

Instead, he gave up an RBI double to Allen Craig in the first and a three-run homer to Pete Kozma in the second. That was more than enough for Carpenter, who’s now 10-2 in his postseason career and looking a lot like Curt Schilling in 2004 (minus the bloody sock). Or maybe Curt Schilling in 2007.

“Just another challenge, I guess,” Carpenter said. “I challenge myself in many ways, and this was another challenge mentally to go out and make pitches and do the things that you’re supposed to do to be successful. No matter if I’ve got one [regular-season] start [to get ready for the playoffs], no starts or 35 starts, bottom line is, you go out there on the mound and make pitches and eliminate all of the distractions, and I was able to do that for the most part today.”

Kozma, by the way, is another example of what I’m talking about. He’s in the lineup only because the Cardinals‘ regular shortstop, All-Star Rafael Furcal, hurt his throwing arm against the Nationals in late August. So the 24-year-old Kozma, who at that point had 17 major league at-bats, was called up from Triple-A, and he proceeded to make all the plays down the stretch — while also hitting .333 (career minor league average: .236).

“We put him in there, gave him the opportunity, and he absolutely ran away with it,” Matheny said.

The Cards, meanwhile, appear to be running away with this series. And now they have their best pitcher this season, Kyle Lohse, set to go in the potential clincher against the Nationals' No. 5 guy, Ross Detwiler. Killer.

“This time of year,” said Adam LaRoche, the Nats’ resident sage, “it’s not always the best team that moves on. Sometimes it’s the hottest.”

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About the Author
Dan Daly

Dan Daly

Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of “The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at ddaly@washingtontimes.com.

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