Nats on the verge of elimination after latest blowout loss

  • 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)

The Washington Nationals stood on the field Wednesday afternoon soaking in just what their season had done to the city of Washington, D.C.

From their spots along the first base line, they gazed out at a record crowd of red-towel-waving fans showering them with appreciation for helping them fall in love with a team and a sport over the course of eight months.

But in the clubhouse, after they’d given those same fans little to cheer about once the pregame ceremonies were complete, there was only silence. Their 8-0 loss to St. Louis in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in a race to three victories, warranted nothing else.

All of the excitement they’d packed into a captivating year, all of the joy they’d experienced by becoming the best team in baseball, was replaced with one stark reality: The Nationals‘ season could end Thursday.

“We don’t have a choice now,” said first baseman Adam LaRoche. “We put ourselves in this spot. Not something we planned on, but it is what it is.”

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)

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Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) misses a catch against the ... more >

The Nationals, a 98-win team boasting a top pitching staff, exceptional defense and a formidable offense, will play one game for their lives Thursday. A win would push them to Game 5, at home, with left-hander Gio Gonzalez on the mound. A loss would make the satisfaction of that regular-season success melt away in an instant.

And if that happens, it’ll be because that regular-season team has shown up only in glimpses in this series.

Instead, it has been a ballclub with mediocre-at-best starting pitching, a rocky bullpen, an inconsistent offense and an inability to beat back the seemingly indefatigable Cardinals.

In the series’ first three games, the Nationals‘ starting pitchers have combined to throw 13 innings. They’ve allowed 11 earned runs off 16 hits and eight walks and struck out just 11. As a whole, the Nationals‘ pitching staff has a 7.23 ERA in the series.

That has been compounded by an offense that has left 29 runners on base and was 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position Wednesday. In the first playoff game within District limits in 79 years, the Nationals threatened often. They put a runner in scoring position in four of the first five innings, and they had at least one hit in every frame Chris Carpenter pitched. They left all of them on base.

They insisted the blowout nature of the past two games, and the fact they’ve been outscored 22-7 in the series, was of no consequence. “It doesn’t matter how you lose ‘em, you know?” right fielder Jayson Werth said. But they know they need to reverse some of their disturbing recent trends if they have designs on their season living another day.

“We need to go out from the first pitch and be aggressive,” LaRoche said. “We know they are. We know what their hitters are doing. They’re up there trying to drive something. It’s not a bunt and hit-and-run team. Those guys are trying to do some damage. We need to fire back and do the same thing.

“This time of year, I can’t say it’s always the best team that moves on. It’s a lot of times the hottest.”

Much of the responsibility for the Nationals to move on will lie with left-hander Ross Detwiler, the 26-year-old who was lit up by these same Cardinals only 11 days ago.

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