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Gonzalez walked seven batters but limited the damage. Zimmermann was tagged for five runs on eight hits in three innings in Game 2.

After two games, the Nationals’ starters have thrown eight innings and have a 7.88 ERA. They’ve allowed eight hits and seven walks — Gonzalez accounting for all the walks and Zimmermann for all but one hit.

Either way, it wasn’t a recipe for postseason success — and it isn’t the formula the Nationals followed so often this season.

“I didn’t do my part,” Zimmermann said. “The last two starts haven’t been good for us. We’ve got [Edwin Jackson] going on Wednesday and he’s going to go out there and send a message.”

The challenge facing Jackson now is to simply give the Nationals a chance. As their various opportunities even Monday showed, “We’re going to bang with ‘em,” Werth said. Zimmermann simply left too many pitches out over the plate to do that. Four straight hits in the second inning got the Cardinals started, four runs coming home after the Nationals took a 1-0 lead.

The Nationals left the field Monday night facing the prospect of three games in a stadium they expect to be filled with their own fans, needing to win two of them. They were fine with that.

“You work all season to get home-field advantage and we’ve got it,” Werth said. “We’re going home with the series tied and a chance to play in front of our fans. We did our job while we were here.”